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Samuel Weaver Herring – 150 years on


Introducing Sam Herring

On March 7, 1860,  Queenborough pioneer Samuel Weaver Herring and his family moved across the Fraser River to the old Revenue Station,  the first settlers in the district opposite the city of New Westminster.

Samuel Herring and his wife Hannah pioneered in raising hogs and cattle,  vegetable  and fruit farming,  dairying,  wine making, ferrying, coastal trading, commercial  fishing and fish canning. At New Westminster they ran a hotel, a restaurant and a fish and game store.

Sam Herring earned a reputation for his distinctive personality in a district and era that attracted colourful fortune-seekers from around the globe.  As a common man, he was as well-known as it was possible to be in the early days of British Columbia, written up in newspapers and history books, and visited by eminent dignitaries.  He was possessed of enormous energy and individualism,  and alloyed with Herring’s somewhat irascible character and tempered with humour,  these traits would lead often to social friction, sometimes with amusing results.

The Herring family resided for decades at the place that became known as Herring’s Point.    In the years since,  Sam Herring  was lost to memory, swept away like river sand in freshet, with only the ghost of his character forever imbuing the district opposite the Royal City.


Samuel Weaver Herring was born in Hager’ s Town, Maryland in 1830, to John Herring, the son of a German immigrant, and Mary (Mason) Herring.  Hager’s Town  was named after Jonathan Hager,  who laid out a townsite on his property  in 1768.   Major transportation routes passed nearby, including the Great Wagon Road running from Pennsylvania southward through the Shenandoah Valley to Virginia, and the National Turnpike connecting Baltimore with the Ohio River and points west. John Herring kept a hotel there. Hagerstown is the county seat of Washington County, Maryland.

The Herrings migrated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in about 1833. By 1846 John Herring had been elected a Constable in the Independent Police of Pittsburgh, where the politics were highly charged and civic positions hotly partisan.  Officer Herring did not shy from controversy, as first evidenced by the following press report from March of 1850.

“On Saturday, John Herring, an officer in the Independent Police, having a bench warrant for the arrest of a man whom he understood had been taken into custody by the Mayor, proceeded to the office of that functionary to obtain the prisoner by virtue of a warrant from higher authority. The Mayor refused to surrender him, and denied the authority of Herring to act as an officer, alleging that he had not given the requisite bonds. Some words ensued, and Herring left the office without the prisoner. . .
On Sunday morning, the Mayor states, that he was attacked by Herring—towards whom he says he entertained no unfriendly feeling—on the street, in a very abusive manner, and that he was compelled at length to have him arrested, on account of his profane language and disorderly conduct. Herring, on the other hand, asserts that the Mayor stopped him, and commenced the abuse, using extremely violent and indecent language. He finally told the Mayor he was a fool, and for that, he states, he was arrested.
Herring was sentenced to pay a fine of 5 dollars, which by the advice of his lawyer, Mr Magraw, he refused to do, and was committed for ten days. We understand that it is his intention to procure his release by a writ of habeas corpus, and to bring an action, immediately, against the Mayor, for misdemeanor in office.”

John Herring’s second son, Sam Herring, was  involved in pubic disputes from an early age. Working aboard the river steamer Euphrates in 1848, Sam was present when the Captain paid off the crew for a stopover.   One crew member later demanded pay for the time ashore, and Sam Herring, as a witness for the Captain, swore that the crew had been laid off. Sam was arrested, indicted for Perjury, and prosecuted by the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Appearing before a Jury, young Herring was noticed by the press.

“The defendant is a boy of about 16 years of age, and of good appearance; he belongs to a respectable family.”

In defense of Samuel Herring, the Captain and the clerk of the Euphrates were called, “who substantiated the matter sworn to by the defendant.”  The jury found Herring not guilty and ordered the prosecuting sailor to pay costs. “This is as much as to decide,” noted the press report, “that the prosecution was malicious.”

The 1850 United States Census recorded the large household of the Herrings  in Pittsburgh—a boarding house run by Mary Herring aged 42. John, 46, is identified as a Constable. Their children were listed as:

Daniel G Herring, a Painter, aged 24.
Samuel Herring, a Pilot, aged 19.
Angeline W Herring,  aged 21.

All the above were born in Maryland.

Born in Pennsylvania were:

Margaret A Herring, aged 17.
Eliza S Herring, aged 11.
William John Herring, aged 8.
Thomas A Herring, aged 4.
Tillman R Herring, aged 2.

The two eldest sons, Daniel and Sam Herring proceeded to California in the same year, where they were counted again as miners  at Yuba. The two gold rush adventurers would soon be followed by the rest of the Herring family.

San Francisco

After their arrival in California, John and Mary Herring took up running a hotel on the bustling San Francisco waterfront.  The location of the Keystone Hotel at 84 Davis Street  was at the centre of port activity, situated near the landing of ocean and river steamers.  In the 1854 city directory, John Herring is described as a “special constable,”  Samuel Herring as “clerk,”  and Mrs Mary Herring  “Proprietess” of the hotel, all residing on the second floor.

Controversy followed the Herring’s to their new home. In the spring of 1855, newspapers reported that “the whole family of Herrings, keepers of the Keystone Hotel” was charged with the assault of a servant girl.

“Miss T., it seems, was fearful of not obtaining her wages, and undertook to collect the same in the public office and sitting room of the house, before boarders and others, to the great scandal of the proprietors. They tried to force her to leave by a sort of neck-and-heels process, generally in vogue among those people that are in the habit of putting other people out of doors.”

Mrs Herring was discharged, but John and Samuel Herring were convicted and fined.

Sam Herring was by this time a married man. In early 1850, his future wife,  Hannah Willard, aged 20, had resided in a wealthy parish in Dauphin, PA, in the household of the Governor of Pennsylvania, William F Johnstone. She was a native of Pennsylvania.

Samuel and Hannah Herring’s first child was born in San Francisco in February 1856. They named him Tillman Willard Herring.

The same year John and Mary Herring suffered the loss of their youngest son, San Francisco-born Alfred. He was just two years old.

By this time the Herring’s were operating  at another location on the waterfront , on Jackson Street between Davis Street and Drumm Street.

The Keystone House was a 22-room hotel, with a parlor, dining room and reading room, furnished with fine mahogany and Brussels carpets.

In May of 1857 Samuel Herring was once again in trouble with the law. A guest alleged he deposited a sum of money for safekeeping with Herring that was not repaid. The details come from a report headed—

Alleged Grand Larceny at the Keystone House

“Samuel Herring, the keeper of the Keystone House, on Jackson Street, between Davis and Drumm, was examined in the Police Court on Saturday afternoon on a charge of grand larceny, for having stolen over $350 from a lodger name J.M. Clark. It appears that Clark arrived here about eighteen days ago, and stopping at the Keystone House, placed his purse, containing $450 in the hands of Herring for safe keeping. In a few days afterwards he requested $50 of it back, and was paid. A week afterwards, Herring stated to Clark that his safe, where the money was placed, had been robbed and the money was gone. He requested Clark to say nothing about the matter, and he would certainly repay the money in a few week’s time, for which he would give his note, though he had to lose it himself. As Clark was persuaded that an exposure of the circumstances would hinder Herring’s business, he said nothing for a short time; but finally went to the police office and complained. An investigation took place, and it was found that if Herring’s safe, which was in his own room, had been robbed, the robber had at least left a watch and other valuables. Besides Herring himself had the key in his own pocket. It was also considered as a suspicious circumstance that Herring had himself made no complaint of the alleged robbery. From these circumstances it was suspected that Herring had not been robbed, and that it was his intention to rob Clark. He was accordingly arrested. Subsequently, he paid back to Clark (out of his own money as he says) all the money owing him, about $375…”

The Judge found reasonable doubt as to the grand larceny and dismissed the matter with a caution to Herring.

That was not to be the end of the matter, however. It appears there was intense competition between rival hotels on the San Francisco waterfront.  Only a couple of days after his acquittal Sam Herring was back in court, owing to another fracas at the Keystone.

The Alta ran the story headed

All Served Right

“Mr Herring, Keeper of the Keystone House, complained of Richard Allman and George Ensbury, runners to steamboats from opposition taverns, of riotous and disorderly conduct. Just after the Sacramento steamer got in on Tuesday night, an unusual number of passengers going to Herrings, the two worthies placed themselves before his door, and accused him of stealing $400 from one of his boarders, and thus induced several persons to leave his house. Herring retorted calling them liars, and then the most filthy billingsgate language was uttered by each, but no blows were struck. His Honor considered that all were to blame, and fined Allman and Ensbury $10 each and Herring $5. After a little grumbling they handed over the cash.”

Sam Herring’s time in the Hotel business in San Francisco was up, and within a week notices appeared that the entire contents of the premises would be auctioned off in a “Large and Peremptory Sale.” The Hotel was taken over by John Allman and continued to be a source of many newsworthy and entertaining stories of waterfront life in the Bay city.

Sam and Hannah packed their belongings and little Tillman aboard a sloop and sailed up the coast to Crescent City, California.

Crescent City to Whatcom

Crescent City had been founded in 1853 to service new mines.  The town grew rapidly and by 1857 had a population of about 800, four sawmills, a flour mill, cannery and its own newspaper.    Here Samuel Herring and his wife Hannah had a daughter they called Annie Mary, born October 22, 1857, a sister to two-year old Tillman Willard.

The Herrings sojourn in northern California was short before they once more rode the flood of opportunity, this time to the mudflats of Bellingham Bay in the northwest, where a booming settlement called Whatcom had pretensions to becoming the supply city for miners and traders into Fraser’s River in the gold rush of 1858.

Whatcom Townsite was mapped out by Alonzo M Poe and lots sold off by owners Russell V Peabody and Henry Roeder in June of 1858. The population around the Bay, itinerant and settling, ballooned to 10,000 men. Judge Warbass, a Whatcom pioneer, recalled “There were dozens of saloons and gambling houses without number. Lots were all on the waterfront.”

Among those who bought building lots from RV Peabody were the Pettibone brothers,  who would later figure in Langley, Victoria, and Whatcom in later years.   John Herring and his son Samuel Herring purchased Lot 5 in Block 33, on the waterfront. Situated on 13th Street, now West Holly Street, between E Street and F Street, the Herrings had a prime location.

William Bausman arrived along with a boatload of miners on the Cortes, bringing with him a different kind of tool, a printing press. His fledgling newspaper, The Northern Light, on July 03 1858, reported on the growth of the city of Whatcom:

“Our citizens are determined to spare neither labor nor money to make Whatcom the starting point of the miners for Fraser and Thompson rivers. They have organized two separate wharf companies.”

Bellingham Bay possessed extensive mud flats, its main drawback as a landing place.

The  Whatcom E Street Wharf Company included among its officers and directors such northwest notables as Messrs RV Peabody, William Utter, Alonzo M Poe, and HC Page. The intention of the subscribers, including J Herring and SW Herring, was to build a wharf 2800 feet in length, with a width of 20 feet and a “T” of 100 feet.

John Herring and Sam Herring were invested in Whatcom, having purchased land from Peabody, but most newcomers camped in tents while awaiting a move to the mines, or erected crude shacks on the mud flats. Finding their properties on the Bay overrun, the owners of land undertook to protect their interests, and held a meeting with the resolution:

“To organize and protect such and every signing member from any unlawful person or persons squatting and or driving piles on any of the land purchased in good faith from Mr AM Poe, Secretary of said Wharf Co.”

The Whatcom boom was to be short-lived. A trail from Whatcom to the mines proved to be an arduous and lengthy journey compared with the ease of travel by steamboats, which began successful runs up the Fraser to Fort Hope. Governor Douglas of Vancouver Island controlled traffic on the river by means of an edict requiring miners to obtain licenses and customs clearance at Victoria, and with the assistance of the Royal Navy, he had the means to enforce it.

With Victoria being mandated as the starting point for the easiest route to the mines, all trade shifted to that city. Whatcom pioneer William Munks recalled that “the estimated population of from 12,000 to 15,000 melted away in ten days to 150, and the buildings torn down and removed to Victoria.”

Most settlers and businessmen would be forced to abandon their properties on Bellingham Bay, but the Herrings kept their stake in the settlement and would retain holdings at Whatcom for many decades. They really had no other option. As Judge Warbass observed:

“In six months, when the gold excitement was over, you could not give a lot away.”

Early in 1859 Sam Herring was still resident at Bellingham Bay. In March he advertised for any information concerning the whereabouts of the schooner Blue Wing. News had reached Bellingham Bay that she was missing, with some six to eight persons. The Blue Wing was a familiar trading vessel calling in ports on Puget Sound and along the coast up to Semiahmoo Bay and Vancouver Island. Among those on board were Ernest H Schroter and her Captain Henry Stowell.

“Mr Schroter is an old resident of this Territory and is favorably known to all persons doing business on Puget Sound…The mother of Capt. Stowell resides at Whatcom, and is naturally in great distress and suspense concerning her son. Any information relative to the missing schooner, addressed to Mrs E Stowell or SW Herring at Whatcom, will be thankfully received.”

The mystery of the disappearance of the Blue Wing would remain unsolved for over a year. Details began to surface that the boat had been attacked and burnt to the water by Northern Indians, with all on board murdered. The same were also implicated in the disappearance of the Helen Maria, another vessel that also traded into Semiahmoo Bay. The failure of British authorities to retain the prime suspect, a man called Hydah Jim, would be a cause of dismay to Americans resident on the Sound and the subject of formal complaints from US officials to Governor Douglas.

By this time Sam Herring had been on the move again, taking his sloop Aurora on the flood tide into Fraser River.

Queenborough:  Camp and  Revenue Station

The new Colony of British Columbia was inaugurated at Fort Langley in November of 1858.   The officer commanding the military force of the new Colony, and also in charge of  lands,  arrived a month later.  Colonel RC Moody did not like Langley as a location for a capital city due to its easy proximity to the American border, which he saw as a commercial and military vulnerability. He chose a hillside further downriver on the north bank, opposite a broad bend in the river named by surveyor Captain Richards “Queen’s Reach,”  and there he set up a military camp he called Queenborough.

On the point directly south across the river, in the midst of an Indian settlement known as Kikait, a Revenue Station was established in February 1859 to collect miner’s licenses and inspect boats for customs sufferances. Hard by Indian houses and grave sites, a building was erected to house the revenue officers and a boathouse to store their boats. A narrow wharf was run out across the tidal flats, a well dug, and a pole was erected to fly the British flag. It was the first sign of civil government authority in the new colony, a gateway to the gold district.

Captain James Kirk was in charge of the station. Men serving under him included William Henry Bevis,  Phineas Manson and Charles Sydenham Wylde, formerly revenue officers at Langley, and William Jeffray, Gauger of Customs. Boatmen in the Revenue Service included one John Deighton, better known as “Gassy Jack.”

The Revenue Station was a fairly large building about 40 feet by 66 feet,  comprising the office and sleeping quarters, barrack-style for the men. It was built up on piles,  to keep it above flood-water.  A long veranda ran the length of the front.

Bevis originally was commuting down from Langley each day,  but soon had a small house built at the Station to house his wife.

The location of the Revenue Station had benefits not solely strategic.   Prior to coming down to Queenborough, the Engineers and their families had been housed up at Derby, where there was cleared land,  and Colonel Moody had bought a cow to provide milk for his wife and children.  There was no pasture on the heavily forested hillside at Queenborough, but on the opposite side of the river, at the back of the outpost,  lay some fine natural grassland.   Moody soon had a “boat-house” erected at the Revenue Station.

Revenue Station

1st June 1859

To His Excellency The Lieut Governor, Colonel RC Moody RE


I beg to inform you that I have completed the building of the shed, which you directed me to make large enough to suit for a boat shed, for the station, it being 33 X 12 1/2 feet. It is now ready for the use of your cows when you think fit to send them across and I will be happy to see that they are taken care of. I enclose you the Bill of the lumber and trust you will have the kindness to cause the same to be paid.

I have the honor to be your Excellency’s most obdt servt—James Kirk, Revenue Department”

There were reciprocal benefits between the men of the North Camp and those on the south side of the river.  On occasion, Kirk  invited some officers of the Royal Engineers to “partake of some choice stuff, seized lately.”

This most amenable relationship would be shortlived.  A new  Collector of Customs, W O Hamley,  had taken charge of the Revenue Service from AC Anderson, and in the interest of reigning in expenses, promptly discharged most of the men.   Captain Kirk would show up as a Master Mariner and Pilot at Victoria.  WH Bevis also went to Vancouver Island, where he obtained employment in the Victoria Police  before attaining the appointment of Lightkeeper at Fisgard Lighthouse.  William Jeffray started an Express service connecting the Upper Fraser and Victoria.  William Manson went back to coopering with the Hudson Bay Company at Langley.   Charles S Wylde, friend of the Colonial Secretary,  was kept on.

Queenborough: Town

Just below the North Camp was the hillside Colonel Moody chose for the site of a new city. The first civilians to arrive at the town site came to the only clear spot, a beach at the base of a ravine. At this place, which would become Lytton Square,  they set up tents while waiting for the trees to be felled.  Among the first to arrive was the Herring family,  lately of Whatcom.

Thomas W Seward, a miner of ’58, recalled that in the beginnings of Queenborough,

“a few energetic citizens erected some frame buildings on the ground cleared, among others Henry Holbrook and Sam Herring, both [later] very well known men in Victoria.”

Hannah Herring, one of the first residents of Queenborough, was carrying a baby, a brother to Tillman Willard and Annie Mary, most likely born in April ’59 at Whatcom, just prior to her leaving that place, although one Census records his birthplace as British Columbia.

According to a newspaper account, Lady Franklin, on her first visit to British Columbia in 1861, took a shine to the young lad, and desired he be called after her long-lost husband. He would be baptized, in due course,  at Holy Trinity Cathedral in the year 1877, as Sir John Franklin Herring.

New Westminster

In November of 1859 citizens of New Westminster, as Queenborough was now called, expressed their concerns over the lack of regulation of land in the settlement.

“Parties [were] encroaching upon property belonging to the City and erecting buildings & committing nuisances therein which much endangers the health of the inhabitants.”

Among the chief nuisances noted was a slaughter house on public land and “a pig stye in front of house occupied by Mrs Lawless.”

Catherine Lawless had relocated to the City following the loss of her Langley hotel by fire. At New Westminster she established the Mansion House hotel, situated on the wharf street four doors above the butcher Thomas Harris’ Queen’s Market.

Sam Herring, removed from Whatcom, where he had once been among those complaining of squatters, found he was this time on the wrong side of civic decorum.

There is

“a piggery erected in the public square by Mr Herring & it is requisite to remove the other shanties from such square.”

The government was requested to “remove all buildings from the public squares, streets & wharfs.”

Sam Herring had other business interests going on. Towards the end of 1859 he was listed as the Agent in New Westminster for the British Colonist newspaper.

The population of the city and district at this time numbered not more than a hundred colonists, of those almost a third American, and it was still a very wild country for a man with a family.

In May of ’59, the body of a man was found floating past the Revenue Station. The same day an Inquest was held, and the next morning a funeral,  and the unknown man was taken away for burial on Annacis Island.  In July the invasion of San Juan Island by American troops heightened anxieties of an outbreak of hostilities. In August, the watchman at the Donahue sawmill just below the city was murdered, and in October two canoeists on the Fraser came across the ghastly sight of a man clinging to the mast of a burning sloop, his partner shot to death.   Sam Herring was a juror at the inquest for that one.

In December, Edgar Dewdney was informed by Magistrate Spalding that Silpaynim, an Indian said to have been involved in several murders, was camped about 2 miles below the City, half a mile below the Saw-Mill. Dewdney employed a ruse of entering his camp as a friendly visitor before seizing the Indian and signalling for assistance from Constable McKeon and his men. Spalding informed the Governor that, as the Fraser River was frozen over, he requested the captive be held at the Engineer’s Camp—“to retain the prisoner in Military Charge until a passage is open to Derby.” Subsequently Silpaynim escaped from custody and attempted to cross the river on the ice. He fell into the frigid water and his body was later found downstream.

As the city was built up with government offices, including a Custom House, the Revenue Service was removed to the north side of the river. Revenue Officer CS Wylde  was granted a one-year lease to the old Revenue Station opposite the City,  out of consideration for his wife and family.  Wylde had no pretension to farm the land. He gave short notice to William Bevis to remove his house, and he immediately sublet to Samuel Weaver Herring.

Good fences

Pioneer farming was to be a new incarnation of Sam Herring.  Herring was thirty years of age, an American from Maryland, USA. He had begun his working life as a river Pilot in Pittsburgh. He had been in California in 1850 first as a miner, and later operating a steamboat and a San Francisco Hotel. He next moved to Crescent City, California and came up with the rush of ’58 to trade in Whatcom. He had been in New Westminster since its beginnings on the riverbank.

Herring’s family consisted of his wife Hannah, also thirty years old, and children Tillman, 4, born in San Francisco, Annie 2, born in Crescent City, and John, born at Whatcom. A son Henry would be born soon after their arrival, one of the first colonists to be born in British Columbia.

The eldest son of John Herring also came up to New Westminster in 1859. Daniel George Herring, a painter by trade in Pittsburgh, was engaged in August 1860 to paint the outside of the Quarters of Colonel Moody at the Camp. The contract was completed with the assistance of his brother Samuel.

Sam Herring’s parents John and Mary, on the breakup of Whatcom,  went back to San Francisco and in 1860 were once again in the Hotel business, with but one child still living at home, Tillman R Herring, aged 12.

Sam Herring soon established a prosperous farm on the south bank of the river extending from the old Revenue Station inland and along the river to the Indian houses.

With Herring making significant improvements in cultivating the land at the Old Revenue Station, and other persons looking to take up adjoining acreages, CS Wylde, the primary leaseholder, wanted to secure rights to this investment.

“His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to let to me for a period of one year, the plot of ground on which the Revenue Station stood. The term is too short to allow me to receive the benefit of any improvements I may effect there. And such being the case I am unwilling to incur expense of clearing, fencing, etc.”

Wylde requested that “the term should be extended for either three or five years.”

Herring’s aggressive development of the old Revenue Station property quickly ran him afoul of his neighbours and the authorities. On April 5, 1860, Colonel Moody complained to the Governor.

“Lands & Works Office, BC
New Westminster 5 April 1860

Sir, I have the honor to inform you that in the execution of my office as Chief Commissioner of Lands & Works I caused certain posts to be put in the ground to mark the Boundary of the Indian Allotment on the left bank of the Fraser, yesterday afternoon.
I notified this Boundary to the Indian Chief Tsimlana, and to Mr Wylde who rents the late Custom House which adjoins the Indian lot, sending the latter a trace of the ground . . .
This morning the landmarks were removed and the Indian ground trespassed on by the erection of a fence. This I am informed by Tsimlana was done by a Mr Herring, a subtenant I believe of Mr Wylde’s.
I should feel much obliged if you will cause legal steps to be taken to secure the protection of this Indian Allotment, and to aid me by such measures as may be in your power to prevent any persons whatever from disturbing landmarks or survey beacons established by Government Surveyors.
I have the honor to be Sir, Your most obedient servant RC Moody.”

Tsimlana is variously spelled Chimelanoch, Tsimlanough, and Zimlanoch—it is the name for a Musqueam Chief. The designation for Squamish Chiefs is Kuapeloch, or Capilano.

A description of Tsimlana’s household at this time was recorded by the Anglican Bishop George Hills on his first visit to British Columbia.

“On the opposite side of the river is an Indian village. I crossed over in a canoe with Dr Setta [Seddall] & Captain Parsons. I made my first essay with a paddle. We had a check on a sand bank but [reached] the other side in safety & went to the village. We entered the Chief’s house. He has built one with a gable roof in imitation of the house of Colonel Moody. Tschymnana was not at home. We found his three wives. They were all at work, as the women invariably are, sitting by a log fire. One was at needle work, another making a various figured cloth, a sort of thick woolen cloth wove of dog hair for the warp, and torn up blanket yarn for the woof, & another was making a grass mat.. .They belong to the Musqueam tribe. We found an old man nearby making a canoe. He had a curious chisel and a granite mallet. He was hollowing it out of a single tree.”

The issues raised by Herring’s encroachment were significant. Governor Douglas was very concerned to protect the interests of the Indian bands along the Fraser River, who often were in possession of the choicest properties for settlement: lands which had river frontage, which were “prairie,” or grass land, and which were often adjacent a creek, and surrounded by cranberry marsh. These attributes were the necessary means of survival for native peoples. Such spots provided fresh water, fish, good hunting (as they attracted game animals), fertile soil for growing potatoes, and fruit and vegetables, such as the natural onion-like camass plant, and the bogs were an indispensable source of medicinal plants.

To a prospective settler, the key attributes were that the land was not timbered and that pasture could readily be used for grazing or for growing vegetables. For some decades, settlers would move in next to the Indians and begin to push them off their land. Douglas decreed that each band should say whatever their territory was, however big, and that it should be so marked off.

The issue more pertinent to Moody was that his survey marks not be tampered with. This would render useless all the work his company of Engineers had set out to do, and would throw into disarray the settlement of the Colony.

The full weight of Colonial law was brought to bear on Sam Herring and he was forced to sign an undertaking to save him from charges.

“I Samuel Weaver Herring of New Westminster do agree with George Humber Cary Attorney General of British Columbia that in consideration of his desisting from filing an information against me in the matter of a contested boundary question I will not interfere with the land delineated on the right hand side of a red line drawn on the plan annexed herewith and thereon described as “Boundary” nor will I hereafter enter meddle with the same land or oust an Indian named Tsimlana therefrom.
SW Herring”

The plan attached shows the location and size of the Revenue Station building, the site of the boat house–which may have been removed to another location, as was common in those times—, a well for drinking water, and the Flag Staff. A large area is marked off on this property, probably Herring’s garden. On the far west side, is another house-site, likely the location of Bevis’ small residence. To the west of the boundary, lies the land allotted to Tsimlana, showing a large Indian house and another cultivated patch, and on the far west, some graves. Outside the boundary to the east are marked some more Indian graves. A second broader map marks the presence of a very large house further to the east. It is possible this was a Kwantlen house, as their presence was noted by at least one observer. The surrounding natural boundary shows the edge of the cranberry marsh. From the position of the graves and the natural clearing, it would appear that the Revenue Station had been established in the middle of an existing settlement.

Herring must have been remarkably industrious in the morning following the survey, to construct the long fence shown stretching from the Revenue Station to close by the Indian House. It appears the function of the fence was to enclose the two garden plots,  or at any rate to control his pigs.

That Wylde was not implicated in the trespass suggests that the improvements to the property—tilling and fencing— were being undertaken at Herring’s own initiative. This fact was noted by the Collector of Customs, Wymond Hamley, who, in response to Wylde’s request for an extension of his lease, advised the Governor:

“the clear understanding between Mr Wylde and myself was that he should take the land for one year at a rent of L 20. He is not working at the land himself, nor employing labor on it; he has sublet it again for his own term of a year at a certain fixed sum. He would not therefore, if a lease were given him, lay out any money now in improvements, and I think it would be more just and reasonable that he should be content to abide by his original agreement till the year has expired.
It will then be seen what the land is really worth, and a lease could be granted to him if he is prepared to pay for it in proportion to its ascertained value.”

Hamley’s intention in granting Wylde the lease, was not to set him up as a landlord, but to allow him an affordable place of residence.

Garden envy

Sam Herring was not sitting idle on his sublet land. Come harvest time 1860, he had a bountiful crop of produce that attracted admiration from a newspaper correspondent.

“Extraordinary growth—Mr Herring showed us yesterday some samples of celery which he raised in his garden, that for size and quality it would be difficult to find their equal. Indian corn is also grown as luxuriant here as in any portion of the United States, and the demand for it in New Westminster keeps pace with the supply. Mr Herring assures us that he can raise as fine peaches in his garden on Fraser River as can be obtained any place. This affords a rather favorable contrast to the agricultural capacity of Vancouver Island, where neither of the latter two articles can be produced.”

Such laudatory assessments could only increase the value of the property, and attracted some interest.  CS Wylde again requested an extension of his lease.

“New Westminster
Oct 19, 1860

Dear Sir—Having every reason to believe that persons are trying to lease the land I now lease from the Government—viz. the old Revenue Station—I wish to draw your memory to a letter I wrote you some 4 months back, asking the lease to be extended for four years.”

He addressed his next letter to Col Moody, who would assume responsibility for the land in his capacity as Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works.

“Having every reason to believe that the land I now lease from the Government, (known as the old Revenue Station) opposite New Westminster, will at the expiration of my lease (1 January 1861) be handed over to the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works.
Should such be the case, I wish to state that I am prepared to offer the sum of forty-five pounds sterling, per annum, as rent for said Land.”

There was some confusion about exactly when Wylde’s lease would expire, for in his next letter, he says it runs to February 1, 1861. He had a new concern:

“having this day seen the draft of a lease for five years in course of preparation for Mr SW Herring. . . I am prepared to tender for the land in question if put up for public auction, or to give the annual rental of fifty pounds for a five years lease.”

Herring, for his part, decided to apply directly to the Colonial Secretary, to offer a lease, and to ask recompense for the value of his improvements, should his bid be unsuccessful.

“I have been in possession since March last, and all the improvements there have been entirely at my expense.”

Herring had an even more pressing concern. He had written his letter December 24, but could not mail it until the 26th, when he added a PS.

“This morning I have met Mr Wild who gave me notice to quit the land on or before the third day of January next or he would prosecute me. May I depend on a reply previous to that date, informing me how I stand with regard to the enclosed lease or whether I can depend on retaining possession as I cannot possibly be ready to leave it at so short a notice.”

Herring was informed that the Chief Commissioner would be putting the land up for auction for a period of seven years.

Sam Herring was also investing in the City side of the river, successfully bidding in December for three water frontage leases in Block 7 at Lots 11, 12, and 14, securing him his own wharf space.

On February 8, 1861, Herring wrote a strongly worded letter to Col Moody demanding payment for his improvements at the old Revenue Station, and suggesting there was no law to permit Moody to auction land to rent.

“I also protest against being removed from such land, as I hold the same, first by a lease to first of January 1861, and secondly by the knowledge and consent of the Collector of Customs who then held power of disposal thereof. And I hereby give notice that I shall hold the commissioner of Lands & Works responsible for any damage or loss I may sustain for the attempts to deprive me of my improvements and transfer the same over to Mr Wylde, he never having a lease from the Government, and I being in possession of the said land since the 7th day of March 1860, and incurred the whole expense for improvements to date.”

This last minute venting of frustration was perhaps exacerbated by pre-game jitters. The very next day, February 9th, 1861 was the day for the sale of Country Lands around New Westminster, and following that auction, the lease would be put up for bids.

When the dust settles

Moody’s Department of Lands & Works had gotten into a fine mess owing to unclear policies, lack of regulation and improper paperwork.

Moody had first, in January 1860, forbid the sale of land opposite New Westminster for reasons of military security,  reserving a huge tract of territory stretching from Annacis Island to Barnston Island and south to the frontier.  In February he allowed that such land could be leased, but subject at any time to reclamation by the Government.  In March, the Governor opened up unsurveyed land for Pre-emption, and in April Governor Douglas instructed Moody to release surveyed land also,  to be sold by auction.

William J Armstrong was the second  person to establish a farm on the south side of the river,  about 2 miles downriver from Herring’s, where the flats met the headland.  He first tried to lease the land, under Moody’s terms,  and was wrapped up in red tape for almost a year.  He afterwards tried to apply “Scrip”–a voucher issued by the Department of Lands & Works–in exchange for the land, also in accordance with Moody’s rules,  and this too was disallowed.

A number of other persons had applied to the local magistrate and registered purchases of land opposite New Westminster,  with payment by land scrip—among them John Robson, Rev Edward White, and John Brough. John Robson went so far as to begin clearing land, to bolster his rights. But all claims were disallowed, since the law held that surveyed land could only be sold by public auction.

The lots immediately opposite the city were included in the sections surveyed by Joseph Trutch in 1859, each half-mile squares.  Outside the boundaries of the survey, land could be claimed by preemption.

Moody’s Engineers produced a second survey of the highly coveted land opposite the city, dividing the riverbank strip into 14 lots, and it was these that were offered up at auction. Those who had claimed the land registered howls of protest.

Having received a defence from the Commissioner of Lands and Works that all purchasers of land assumed a degree of risk, John Brough penned a scathing critique.

“Had I been dealing at the Office of some petty Land Agent I think I could form some idea of the meaning of ‘risk,’ but as I consider a Government Land Office a matter of fact place I cannot conceive why I should run any risk in transacting business there.”

At the auction John Robson bid successfully for the land he had claimed and begun to clear.  But there was another catch.   His Scrip could not be accepted as payment at the Auction, which was cash-only. The land was put up again and sold to Ebenezer Brown. After continuing protest at the unfairness of it all,  the authorities allowed Robson payment for his improvements.

Ultimately the twist of fate worked out well for both men: Robson, his mettle sharpened in his dispute with the powers that be, was led into a career as a newspaperman and thence into politics and the Premiership of British Columbia; Brown, a consummate capitalist, would assiduously develop the property, which became known as Brownsville, to the profit of himself and the district at large.

White and Brough also received compensation for their losses, but the Land system would continue to be plagued with problems, not least that no allowance had been made for roads, and landholders to the back of the river had no access to their land.

WJ Armstrong fared best with the Auction, his patience finally rewarded.  No one bid for his claim and he could therefore successfully apply his Scrip at the upset price for unsold land.

In addition to the 14 lots offered at auction, Moody reported:

“I found that an additional plot of about fourteen acres in extent could with great advantage to this Government be offered for lease. Accordingly, on the 9th inst., after the sale of Country Lands was concluded, I caused the land to be put up for lease in two plots of seven chains frontage on the river and amounting in acreage to about eighteen and fourteen acres. The appraised value of improvements made, viz. seventy-four pounds, eight shillings sixpence on the former, and two hundred and two pounds on the latter, was added to the bid and they were both knocked down to Mr SW Herring, the present occupant, for the term of seven years, from 1st March next, for the yearly rental of eighty-three pounds (L 83) and one pound (L 1) respectively.”

The lease would run from March 1st, 1861 to February 28, 1868. Wylde’s original one year lease had been for 20 pounds. He had offered an extension for 40, then 50 pounds. It is not known what he charged Herring to sublet during 1860.

The value of the respective properties, as described by Moody, is puzzling. Lot A, the smaller parcel, had a significantly higher assessment of improvements, but was let for cheaper rent.

In light of future events, it is worthwhile to note here the status of any improvements.

“The conditions are that all improvements existing at the expiration of the term of lease be subject to the usual law respecting landlords and tenants fixtures.”

Moody goes on to suggest that the Government prepare a form of lease to be signed by both parties: “it is unfair upon the tenant to call upon him to prepare it.” But the Attorney General noted that Moody “did not understand the consequences” of this proposal. Added the Colonial Secretary:

“no departure can be made from the rule that all leases of this character must be prepared by the lessee and submitted for approval of the Government.”

In later correspondence concerning the properties, there is a copy of a lease purported to be for “Section A, Lot One, Group Two,” which was dated February 9, 1861. This is for the smaller parcel, at the yearly rent of one pound.

In May 1861 there was another dispute between Indians and a local settler. Mr Atkins, who established a farm at the mouth of the Coquitlam River, wished to displace Indians from a potato patch. Chartres Brew, the magistrate, noted that the Indians claiming the land were not the Quoquitlam Indians:

“they are belonging to the Lodge opposite Camp near Herring’s farm.”

With most of the surveyed lots being picked up by speculators,   only three homesteads were being developed outside of the Indian village:  Herring’s Ranche,  the farm of Ebenezer Brown one mile downstream, and a further two miles down, the farm of WJ Armstrong.

Herring’s Ranche

Sam Herring had invested in some cows, and in April of 1861 he announced in an advertisement in the British Columbian newspaper that he was selling “milk at 6 bits a gallon.”    Son Tillman would accompany his father across  the river each morning with his fresh milk and for many years after would be the city’s milkman.

In July Herring entered into an agreement with  butcher Thomas Harris to supply his shops with seasonal vegetables and fruit.   Harris and Herring were old friends,  having both started in business on Lytton Square in 1859.   Two more engaging companions it would difficult to imagine:  Harris the larger-than-life English sportsman with a love of story-telling,  and Herring the eccentric,  energetic, engaging  American, both self-made men.

Thomas Harris was making a great success in business since first opening his “Queens Market” at Queenborough in 1859.  He dealt in cattle and held the lucrative contract to supply the Engineers with beef.   He also had a shop in Victoria and soon after removed to Vancouver Island, where he would build himself the largest home in the City, race horses,  and become Victoria’s first Lord Mayor.   He left his mainland business in the hands of his step-son, Robert Dickinson,  a success in his own right and a future mayor of New Westminster.

Herring’s  farm, self-styled “Herring’s Ranche,” was very visible on the south side for anyone travelling up the river, and once again attracted the attention of the Victoria press, which was always ready to put down the upstart colony on the mainland.

“There is no farming going on, with the exception of Herring’s ranch, on the opposite side of the river.”

This assessment was heartily condemned in New Westminster, which boasted that there were, in fact,

“Within a range of two miles from this city, thirteen farms under cultivation.”

A visiting writer decided to check out the local farms and found much favour when he took a canoe over to Herring’s.

“On arriving there I met with a very kind reception from the well known proprietor and his good wife; the latter helped me generously to some excellent milk, to which I did ample justice. Mr Herring then showed me over his vegetable grounds, some 10 acres in extent, and I must confess that I never before witnessed such a striking proof of the richness of the soil in any country; the ground seemed literally to groan beneath the load of vegetation it produced.
Mr Herring informed me that he has supplied the New Westminster market with all vegetables in season, since the first of May besides shipping to up river towns. Amongst other things I noticed a splendid lot of celery, of which he intends sending a quantity to Victoria, as he has been in the habit of doing.”

The same writer attempted to visit Ebenezer Brown’s farm nearby, and his description, though a trifle sarcastic, gives some insight into conditions along the river.

“After looking over his grounds, at his stock, &c., and indulging in a parting cup of milk, I took leave of Herring’s ranch and its occupants, and returned to my canoe, when the idea struck me, that as Brown’s ranche was hard by I would take a look at it. I accordingly dropped down with the current, and landed on that ranche. After making my way with some difficulty through a slashing, or chopping, of some 20 chains, I was suddenly brought up at the edge of what appeared to be an impassible gulf. Whereupon I enquired of a siwash, who with his kloochman was ensconsed beneath a few shakes, where I would find Brown’s ranch. . .
I learned that the high water in the Fraser had flooded back, and covered that portion of land under cultivation, which will, I fear, cause serious injury to the vegetables.
Feeling disappointed, and convinced that there was no prospect of getting a drink of milk here, I beat a retreat to my canoe, and returned to the city of New Westminster.”

A follow up letter to the paper railed against the bias and unfairness of the writer.

“To compare an old established ranche with one in the first stages of improvement, for the purposes of showing the worthlessness of the latter, is absurd.”

While it is true that Mr Brown had only just begun to cultivate his land, Mr Herring’s “old established ranche” was, of course, less than two years old.   Another visitor in September remarked that Brown had about 10 acres cleared and under cultivation, with “chiefly horticultural produce.”    About two miles downriver, where the flats met the bluff, WJ Armstrong had cleared several acres and had his first crop of garden vegetables.   James Kennedy,  further down, opposite Annacis Island,  had begun clearing for a plantation of fruit trees.

The superior quality of produce on Herring’s patch was undisputed. For the next twenty years, his vegetables would win prizes against the best that Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island farms had to offer.

The First British Columbia Industrial Exhibition was held in New Westminster, with a grand opening November 13, 1861. It was an opportunity to showcase the industry and agriculture of the young Colony. Among the various farms displaying their best produce, it was Herring’s that won the most prizes, including many firsts. With only his second harvest, Herring carried off prizes for an astonishing variety of products, including peas, beans, Indian corn, cabbages, kale, cauliflower, turnips, beets, pumpkins, squash, celery and rhubarb. His herb garden was without competition and garnered medals for Summer Savory, Bagold, Thyme, Mint, Margery and Sage. He took second place for fresh butter, and his wines were judge both best and runner up.

That winter the Fraser River froze solid at New Westminster.

Sam’s eldest son Tillman was tasked with making the daily milk delivery to houses in the city.  When ice choked the river he was taken across the river on a sleigh, the milk cans stacked high.   In Tillman’s estimation,

“The winter of 1861-62 was the severest one in the history of the city. With the ice on the river two feet thick, I recall seeing the Royal Engineers hauling five-ton loads of hay, drawn by five-horse teams on the ice. . .”

Sam Herring took out an advertisement in the first week of January, when the ice had really set in,  to assure his customers of a constant supply of milk. Tillman claimed that over the years he was never held back more than 24 hours, come ice or high water.

While residents of the city skated  and played hockey, Sam Herring took advantage of the freeze-up to cut blocks of ice from river. Later that spring he was able to advertise-

“Ice! Ice! Ice!!! Three hundred tons of good clear Fraser River ice for sale. . .SW Herring, Herring’s Ranch.”

Growing reputation

Family Business.

By the spring of 1862, Sam Herring was sufficiently confident in the produce of his farm that he put in a bid for the supply of vegetables to the Royal Engineers Camp. The contract was for one year, and his offer was “2 pence half penny per pound.” Herring did not win the contract, but continued to find a ready market for his produce and milk among the residents of New Westminster. One local, in reminiscing about the year 1862, told a story about Herrings’ dairy.

“There was old Sam Herring, who in early days had a ranch on the Fraser opposite New Westminster and supplied milk to the city. Now one spring the Fraser was very low and I heard a river steamboat captain say to Sam, ‘Sam, if the river gets much lower we shall run out of milk.’ Which remark made Sam very angry, I wonder why.”

Sam and Hannah had another son born in 1862, whom they named Henry Holbrook Herring.

Following a successful harvest year, Herring together with his father John Herring, formerly of San Francisco, branched out into business, purchasing the Mansion House hotel in the city.

Mrs Catherine Lawless’s old establishment was located on the river front, near Harris’s wharf at Lytton Square.  It was the largest hotel in the city with accommodation for 150,  family and sitting rooms, and boasted two first class bowling alleys.  Lawless had sold out in 1861 and removed to the Cariboo and the hotel was run for a short time by R Cameron.

The Herrings had experience in the business, having run the Keystone Hotel in downtown San Francisco in the early 50s, and before that, a boarding establishment in Pittsburgh. John Herring’s wife Mary was a renowned hostess.

Harry Guillod, a mining adventurer who spent his last few cents and his cap and jersey on a canoe ride down from Yale, arrived at New Westminster, the evening of October 16th, 1862.

“Octr 17th — I went to the Mansion Restaurant last night and asked leave to sleep there as I had some grub left; however the old chap there, an American, seeing I was broke, told me to come in to supper, and I had three meals there today for which I did about an hour’s work. I had a long talk with his ‘missus’ who is a goodnatured kind little body.”

Samuel Herring’s farm received international notice with the publication of Lundin Brown’s prize-winning “Essay on British Columbia.” His farm was singled out as an example for the success of agricultural production in the Colony.   “The vegetables of British Columbia are unsurpassed by any in the world.”

In this successful year, Sam Herring pre-empted 160 acres (Lot 26)  on the south bank of the Fraser, eight miles downstream from his farm,   at present day Ladner.

Civic Duty:  The Cranford Case

Samuel Herring was in court again in December of 1862, but not on his own hook. He was a Juror in one of the more controversial civil cases of the time, and one which reflected well how justice was done in the early years of the Colony.

It was a suit for damages by Robert Cranford against the packing outfit of GB Wright for the late shipment of goods over the trail from Douglas, at the head of Harrison Lake, to Lillooet. According to one witness, hundreds of pounds of bacon had been left some days, melting under the hot sun. Cranford and his brother had been put in jail for refusal to pay the freight bill.

Public opinion was highly engaged in the case, and the courtroom was packed with spectators every day. Prominent lawyers were employed on both sides.  Appearing for Cranford were DB Ring and JF McCreight; George Hunter Cary and HP Walker represented Wright. The presiding Judge was Mathew Begbie. Throughout the trial and following, in many columns of opinion in the newspapers, accusations of bias and unfairness were cast at both Jurors and Judge Begbie.

Sam Herring was the focus of some the more spectacular scenes in the courtroom and at the centre of controversy following the trial. Herring would later write that

“some of the Jurymen came into the room pledged to support the cause of the Cranfords in the heaviest verdict they could get.”

Herring and three of his fellow members of the Jury alleged that one of the Jury had

“declared to two of us on the first day of the trial, before we had heard the evidence of one man, that ‘he was going to make an example of up-country packers.'”

Herring had himself much to defend. During the course of the trial, a witness for Mr Wright allowed that:

“I was with one of the jury some time last night, but I didn’t make any impression on him.” In the murmur which followed, “nearly all the jury and the eyes of most of the audience were directed to a juryman named Herring.”

After the trial, William Grieve, the foreman of the Jury, countered claims of bias and prejudgement on the part of some Jurors, with a claim of an opposing bias in Herring.

“Is nothing to be inferred from what S.W. Herring said in the jury room, ‘that he had known Gus Wright intimately for years, that he thought a good deal of him, and did not know what would become of him if he had not had one damned good friend on that jury?'”

The penultimate moment of the trial occurred when the Jury admitted they were at an impasse, and though the majority would have liked to keep deliberating until they could reach an accord, Sam Herring exclaimed:

“There’s one point I’ll never agree on!”

This was the trigger for Judge Begbie to dismiss the proceedings.

“Then, gentlemen, I’ll discharge you.”

Cranford’s counsel, Ring and McCreight, leapt to object, as shown in this account from the press reporter:

“‘Will your lordship, as is usual, ascertain this point, whether it be one of law or of fact, and direct this gentleman, that justice not be defeated?’
The Judge (much agitated)—‘I’ll neither do one nor the other.’
Mr Ring (much surprised)—‘Then your lordship refuses.’ And turning to Mr Mathews, the Registrar, ‘Have you the book in Court with the name of the practitioners?’
The Registrar—‘Yes.’
Mr Ring—‘Then dash your pen through my name!’
The Judge—‘You did a prudent thing, Mr Ring.’
Mr McCreight—‘Mr Mathews, erase my name too.’
Both gentlemen then indignantly withdrew. Cheers were given and the Court adjourned amidst great confusion and excitement.'”

Judge Begbie was subjected to serious rebukes in the press for being biased and unfair during the proceedings, for his opinions and his handling of the evidence, and in ultimately dismissing the Jury. Begbie was notoriously impatient with Juries which did not agree with him, especially in criminal cases. Juries in the time of the gold rush were often loath to convict. In the trial of the murderer Neil, at Derby in 1859, Begbie had proposed keeping the Jury locked up without “coal, food or candle”  until they could find the prisoner guilty. As well, Begbie had fallen in public esteem following charges of improper conduct in Cariboo land dealings.

For their part, Samuel Herring and three other Jurors raised their chins:

“Judge Begbie, throughout the whole trial, was perfectly impartial, upright, and free from all prejudice upon either side.”

John Robson, at odds with the establishment since the day his land claim opposite New Westminster was disallowed, could not set that opinion in type without deeming it “highly amusing to all those who attended the late memorable Assizes.”

William Grieve, the foreman of the Jury, departed from points of law and fairness in a follow-up low personal attack directed at GB Wright and Sam Herring, both ex San Francisco men.

“I never saw such scenes as I saw in that Court. I had heard of the difficulties in California in 1856 which led to the formation of a committee of vigilance—of the expulsion of large numbers from that State; proving most conclusively that the continued existence of those individuals in their midst was inimical to their well being as a community. No remedy was left but literally to spit them out. Since the late session of the Court, the enquiry has come into my own mind have not some of these outcasts found their way into British Columbia? Is there no cause for Britons to be on their guard? A word to the wise is said to be sufficient.”

That Grieve intended to single out Sam Herring is clear from another remark that

“those four jurors, more especially as they are not all British subjects. . .may be ignorant of the duties as well as the privileges of British juries.”

This was a slanderous attack on Herring— who was no Ned McGowan—but by then perhaps he had his fill of courtrooms for the time being.

Life along the river

New Westminster suffered a severe economic blow with the withdrawal of the Royal Engineers back to Britain in 1863.  Sam Herring underwent some retrenchment in 1864. In May he sold his certificate of improvement for 160 acres at Ladner to Thomas Harris and his step-son Robert Dickinson.  Dickinson ran a slaughterhouse adjacent to Lytton Square in the city, a few doors downstream (fortunately)  from Herring’s hotel.

In 1865 the telegraph line was pushed north from California, crossing the river to New Westminster at Brown’s farm. Another line ran from opposite the city through Herring’s property, heading east to Langley. A rough road accompanied the telegraph line putting Herring’s Point at the terminus of a route from Yale down the Fraser valley.

J G McBean’s store on Columbia Street  was advertising

“Fresh Fruits, from Herring’s Ranche, constantly on hand.”

Herring continued to supply Robert Dickinson, who announced in July 1866  that he  was  ” in receipt of a fresh supply of vegetables and fruit every morning, from Herring’s Ranch.”

In December of 1866 a convict on the chain gang from the New Westminster jail, Marke Dunne, a lifer, escaped and hid in the forest. A reward was immediately offered by Police Inspector Chartres Brew—

“Before daybreak on the 22nd Dunne stole a boat from above the camp and crossed to the opposite side of the river intending to make his way to Semiamoo. He was seized by Zimlandlo, the Musqueam Indian Chief, who with the assistance of his sons captured him after some resistance. . . “

The Indians had displayed some considerable savvy and courage in the capture, as Dunne was armed.

Related Tsimlana:

“I called my two sons to assist me. The man had a pistol in his hand which he was pointing at us, my sons attempted to close with him when he took an axe which we had not seen before from behind him and stuck with it at every one approaching him.  My sons were afraid of getting a stroke of the axe as they made no further attempts to secure him. The man then was moving off when I fired at his legs with small shot and wounded him. He fell down dropping the axe and pistol and we secured him and tied him and escorted him to the jail.”

Brew was pleased with the outcome.

“I have paid him the $50 reward. Dunne is not severely wounded. He has four grains of small shot in his leg.”

According to John Sheepshanks, the Anglican rector at New Westminster, there was another occasion when shots could be heard from across the river after a member of the Musqueams suspected of murder had been turned over to British justice.

“The Musquioms were divided about this matter. It was old Tsimlanogh, the chief, a man who was always very friendly with the whites, who had given up the Indian to our people. Another party of the same tribe was much angered at this, and determined to have their revenge. Accordingly, they crept through the forest and began firing through the bush upon Tsimlanogh’s ranch. He and his sons returned the fire, and it seemed as if there would be loss of life. The Engineers, hearing the firing, sent an armed party across the river to protect an American family [the Herring family] that was residing there.
But the fighting was stopped by a very happy circumstance. The colonel had purchased a large steamboat bell to serve as a church bell and summon the soldiers and their families to Divine worship. Fortunately, this day happened to be a Sunday, and in the height of the firing the church bell was heard sounding across the river. The Indians were startled at the unwonted sound proceeding from the camp, not knowing what was going to happen, and stopped their fighting. Peace was soon afterwards, I believe, patched up between the two factions.”

The summer of ’67 saw Herring’s Ranche one again bountiful with fruit and vegetables. In a period of fine summer weather, the Methodist minister, Edward White, enjoyed a day on the river.

“Still very fine and pleasant. Spent the forenoon in study and felt the Lord very precious. This afternoon went for a canoe sail, visited Mr S Herring on the other side of the river and saw such a crop of currants as I never saw before. I have more love for souls today than I have some time before. My cry is O Lord give me to feel the burden of souls more & more.”

Lease extension, suits and other enterprises

Sam Herring and his father John Herring were running into some financial trouble dating from a mortgage taken out in 1865.   Toward the end of 1867 they were unable to repay an indenture to the Government, in the person of JW Trutch, and were forced to give up their cattle for auction.

On January 1st, 1868 James A Clark,  skipper of the Governor’s steam yacht Leviathan, the little vessel that had made its first appearance in 1858 at Semiahmoo Bay, recorded in his journal it was snowing at New Westminster, and by the end of the week the

“Fraser River frozen over, very cold.”

Commerce was forced into a lull, but the residents took advantage and until the end of the month, when the weather moderated, there was skating every day on the river.

1868 was the year that SW Herring’s original lease at the Revenue Station would run out. Herring expressed some interest in discontinuing his tenancy there, petitioning the Government, through his MPP John Robson, that he be allowed compensation for his improvements on the land.

“Mr Herring had paid $3000 in rent to the Govt and had expended $7000 in improvements. All Mr Herring desired was that he should be allowed for his improvements, and that the land should be sold by auction and knocked down to the highest bidder.”

Trutch played hardball with Herring, describing terms saying improvements “should revert to the Govt at the expiration of the seven years’ lease.” At the same time, he claimed he could find no records of the original agreements with Colonel Moody.

Sam Herring lost his elder brother in the fall of the year 1868, his obituary reading:

“Died. On the 17th of September at Sitka, Mr Geo Daniel Herring, aged 42 years and eight months. Deceased was the son of John and Mary Herring, now residing in this City. He came to California from Pittsburgh, Pa. in 1850, and afterwards came to this Colony in 1859, and then emigrated to Sitka, where he died.
“Such too is life in mornings prime, When youth and Hope are ours. We bloom today, Then pass away, As passeth Summer flowers.”
California and Pittsburg papers please copy.”

Trying to resolve the tenancy on his long-held farm, Samuel Herring wrote to the new Chief Commissioner of Lands & Works, Joseph Trutch, regarding the lease conditions. Trutch offered an extension of the same lease held by Herring to 1868, plus a “portion of Lot 1, Group 2 lying between the said premises and Lot 2 in the same Group.” It appears Herring thus occupied the two lots of 14 and 18 acres, to the east of the Indian reserve, and now also the balance of land surrounding the reserve in Lot 1.

Sam Herring was enterprising as always. In July 1869, it was reported “the sloop Martha, Capt Herring” was doing well making regular trading trips from New Westminster to the lumber camps on Burrard Inlet.

Herring’s relations with his neighbours were also, true to form, not always amicable. He got into a dispute over his cows trespassing on the property of  neighbour Ebenezer Brown. In court before Arthur Bushby, Herring represented himself in a very entertaining manner, but lost. The Mainland Guardian reported:

“This case, which seems to have created considerable interest, was a claim for $100 damages caused, as alleged by the plaintiff, from the depredations of defendent’s cattle on a certain hayfield belonging to plaintiff, in which property in the form of hay and an aftergrowth of clover, were partly consumed and partly damaged. . .

The defendant exhibited a good deal of shrewdness in the conduct of his case and created much laughter by the peculiarities of his address. We cannot help thinking, however, that the case was allowed to occupy a much longer period of the time of the court than would be possible if cases were more numerous.”

The same week, Herring was back in court again. He charged his neighbour Jim, of Tsimlana’s family, with pointing a firearm at him in a dispute over a buck. Herring had found a deer swimming in the river and had secured it by a line to his boat. The deer made violent struggles to escape and Jim and a “tillicum,” or friend, assisted by shooting the buck. For this help they claimed half the deer, but Herring refused.

“An altercation ensued, and it was alleged that Jim raised his gun in a threatening attitude; but as the gun was proved not to have been loaded, the case was dismissed.”

There are many accounts of the hunting of swimming deer, sometimes by design. It was a common practice of the Indians to use dogs to drive deer into the water where they could be more easily killed, and easily transported.

Not more than two weeks later, a raft of disputes between Ebenezer Brown and Samuel Herring came up in court again.

First, Herring applied for an appeal, with jury, of his earlier dispute with Brown. This was granted.
Two more suits for damages by cattle, Brown vs Herring, resulted in judgments in favour of Brown.
In a complaint by Herring against Brown, he alleged that Brown did damage to a bridge, said to be on Herring’s land. This case was not proven. Herring’s appeal of his first case came up three weeks later. The jury found against Herring and doubled the award of damages.

The speed with which these cases were dealt with was typical of these times. A jury could be gotten together at the drop of a hat, and the court system often had the luxury of doing business without lawyers. One suspects that more that a modicum of theatre and entertainment value entered into the proceedings in the warmly lit courthouse, enlivening the dreary riverbank settlement.

In December 1869 on one of his regular supply runs to Burrard Inlet, Sam Herring was caught in a gale off Point Grey and his boat was battered ashore, losing a third of its cargo.

“Mr Herring escaping with life only by the providential appearance of some Indians near the spot , who assisted in preserving his life.”

The same gale blew down chimneys and sheds on the wharfs along the New Westminster waterfront.

The first week of September 1870, a sturgeon, said to be the largest ever caught in the Fraser River, was hauled into a net off Herring’s Point. It measured 11 1/2 feet long and tipped the scales at 784 pounds.

Sam Herring again was noticed by the press for the quality of his exhibits at the Annual Show of the Agricultural & Horticultural Society in Victoria,  Vancouver Island, in the last week of September, 1870.

“the red and white currant wines (nectar fit for the gods), the potatoes, cabbages, etc, of Sam. Herring of New Westminster. . .”

In the last week of November, the lower Fraser district was again rocked by high winds which damaged properties in the City and blew down Ebenezer Brown’s new barn across the river.

In time for Christmas, 1870, Sam Herring expanded his business and farming interests with the sale of his “native wines” in Victoria.

“Red and Black Currant Prize Wine. The now famous wine that has taken the Prize at every Agricultural Exhibition and which is known as Herring’s Currant Wine may be had of Alex. Phillips Yates Street, Sole Agent for Victoria. It is warranted pure and free from Spirits, and can be found in every Saloon throughout the Colony.”

The press gave his wines an enthusiastic endorsement:  “If these wines are equal to the sample sent to our office, the demand will be large and the sale brisk.”

Fire on Front Street

The Herring family were to suffer a serious setback when on Feb 9, 1871, their landmark hotel The Mansion House, which they ran as a boarding establishment, caught fire.

Mrs Herring related that some guests had arrived hungry and cold late in the evening, when dinner was long over. Among them was Jason Allard of Langley. Mrs Herring, anxious to provide hot food and  hot water, attended to her guests’ needs.

“I told James Smith, my grandson, to go and make a fire in the kitchen stove.” James, 13, one of two grandsons living with the Herrings, told her he tended the stove, “I filled it up full of wood.”

Sometime after midnight, Mrs Herring aroused the house with cries of “Fire! Fire!” Some of the boarders rushed to the kitchen and attempted to quell the blaze, and could have gotten it out, if a supply of water had been on hand. They had to flee when the flames could not be beaten down.

Although located just a short distance from the water hoses of the Hyack Hall, the entire building was destroyed. The prompt appearance of the fire crew prevented the flames engulfing the boardwalk and neighbouring buildings, including the Telegraph Hotel.

Reported the Mainland Guardian:

“Mr Herring’s loss by the fire must be large, and his loss from the stoppage of the business, will be also serious, as the house was an old established one, and well patronized.”

The two grandsons, Charles and James, who were staying with the Herrings, were children of their daughter Eliza Susan, Samuel’s younger sister.

Samuel Herring and his son Tillman were both active members of the Hyack fire brigade.


Victoria Day was the grandest of festivals in the Lower Fraser, and always included Indian 21-man canoe races, and boat races. Sam Herring was a skilled boatman and a perennial competitor in the sailing race with his sloop the Martha. This year he lined up against such as Aleck McClean’s Coquitlam Lass, and Gossett’s Flat Iron. The Martha established a big lead, before capsizing. Earlier, his boats had won the four-oared race, and that for two pairs of sculls.

British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871, but Dominion Day passed in New Westminster with little notice.

A close rival to Victoria Day for celebratory spirit was American Independence Day.  This July 4th was met at sunrise by the firing of a salute.  Festivities during the morning included the band playing patriotic airs,  at noon another salute erupted followed by  tributes  to the President and to the Queen, and in the afternoon, sports and games.    JT Scott and SW Herring, both American ex-pats,  provided free refreshments of strawberries and ice cream, which drew the compliment: “the cream was prepared by Mr Herring and was very good.”

National holidays were not the only occasion for the sound of guns at New Westminster.  During the late ’60s naval vessels, notably the Sparrowhawk,  made regular trips up the Fraser and anchored opposite Herring’s Point near to the Lieutenant- Governor’s residence.   As each vessel was required to expend a proscribed amount of shells in gunnery practice each month,  the left bank of the river was a convenient target.    So, too,  for the Royal City’s fine volunteer militia. Onto the height overlooking the river at Albert Crescent, the Seymour Artillery would drag both their field pieces and commence shelling the “butts” set out 1200 yards distant on the Brownsville shore.   (There are cannon balls in the New Westminster Museum that were found years later during excavations on the south side of the river. )

Hard winter passages

After experiencing a succession of relatively mild winters since the great freeze-ups of 1858 and 1862, British Columbia residents were taken aback by the severity of frost in late December 1871. Travellers from upcountry made their way in canoes through the ice as far as Matsqui, where they were forced to take to the trail.

“This so-called trail,” reported the Mainland Guardian, “is simply a long opening in the forest where the trees, instead of being upright, are horizontal.” It was arduous travel in the best conditions, and downright dangerous in the winter.

“Our readers can imagine a series of logs covered with snow and made slippery with ice that involved continuous clambering, slipping and contusions made much more enchanting by the addition of cold and hunger.”

Among those who braved hardships and exposure to make this trip was Arthur Bushby.

“He left Yale on Friday, reached Harrisonmouth the same day, crossed to Mr Jaynes place, at the Matsqui on Sunday, and walked into Langley. On Monday it required the whole day to accomplish the 16 miles to Herring’s place, and a hard job at that. Under the guidance, and with the aid of Sam Herring and his sons, Mr Bushby was conveyed over the ice to the vicinity of Sapperton.”

This was Bushby the Magistrate, before whom Herring had appeared on many occasions. A Mr Hill, arrived with feet frostbitten and remained some days at Herring’s to recuperate.

The trail upon which they travelled was the “New Westminster and Yale Sleigh Road.” Constructed with the telegraph line in 1865, it existed partly for just such emergencies, when the river was impassable. It had ambitions to being a cattle road, but was poorly maintained. It began opposite New Westminster in the vicinity of Herring’s farm and followed the river, before rising to the heights opposite Tree Island (present day Port Mann), and heading toward Barnston Island, where from this point eastward to Langley, remnants can be travelled even to this day.

The cold weather persisting, many others were forced to take this route to New Westminster. Another party of eleven came down in two groups. The first four reported a “most disagreeable trip, alternately on the ice and on the trail.” They arrived at Herring’s on Sunday night and crossed over on the ice Monday.

“It is supposed that the remainder of the party arrived at Herring’s on Monday night, as a prearranged signal was exhibited (two lights), but they arrived too late to cross the ice, and are consequently detained until it breaks up, which we trust, will occur today.”

Tillman Herring recalled that to make his milk deliveries this winter of 71-72 , he “crossed the ice for six consecutive weeks.”

Developments of the early 70’s

In the Journals of the British Columbia Legislature for 1872, there is a reference to a petition of Samuel Herring that was referred to a Select Committee. The purpose of the petition is not stated, although Herring may have been asking to purchase the land he occupied. The committee was instructed to determine if the land was reserved, whether Herring had a lease to 1878, whether the land was surveyed, whether the Province had the power to sell the land under the Terms of Union, and finally, if there was any rent due.

The Committee reported it had examined the lease dated 29 May 1868 between JW Trutch, Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works and Samuel Herring. The committee concluded that “the subject matter of the petition is wholly out of the power of the committee” and must be resolved by the parties to the lease. It is possible the Committee did not return this lease to the Department, as later correspondence would show it could not be found.

The produce of Herring’s farm continued its run of success in competition. In October 1872 the First Provincial Agricultural Exhibition was held at Victoria and Sam Herring went over and carried off an armful of prizes. The list shows the variety and quality of the produce on the land along the river opposite New Westminster.

Best 12 white turnips;
Best cattle cabbage;
Best pair of geese;
Best 4 melons;
Best collection of vegetables consisting of 2 cucumbers, 2 pumpkins, 12 tomatoes, and 2 squashes;
Best tomatoes;
Best jams and jellies;
Best wines, home-made;
Best pumpkins, 7 kinds
Collection of fruits (apples, pears, melons, plums) grown by one exhibitor, 2nd place.

Herring also kept livestock on his farm, notably pigs and cattle, and he had at least two oxen, useful for clearing and tilling.

Sam Herring, along with some significant other businessmen in New Westminster, found themselves in difficulty after investing in a speculative agricultural enterprise on Lulu Island. The Fraser River Beet Root Sugar Co. in July of 1873 was taking Herring to court, claiming he should pay a share of the losses.

Money troubles may have also resulted in Herring’s appearance in Court yet again before Mr Bushby. He was ordered to pay an overdue note owing to Mr Fisher.

The Electoral District of New Westminster, outside the City proper, ranged from Ladner to Chilliwack and included Burrard’s Inlet. For the election of 1873, there were just 5 polling places in this entire region. One at Granville, one at Ladner, one at Chilliwack, one at Fort Langley, and one at Herring’s Farm.

A road was under construction from Brownsville, where Ebenezer Brown had built a wharf, to Semiahmoo. From the top of Brownsville hill, a second trunk road was underway to Sumas Prairie, thence onward to Hope and Yale.

The south side of the river, from Brownsville to Semiahmoo, was sparsely settled, and remained so, even after a Government Auction of lands on September 30, 1873. In the south, along the border, some 15 sections of land, each 160 acres, attracted a buyer for one section only, at the upset price of one dollar an acre.

Some lots were available above Brownsville,

“situated at the back of Mr Saml Herring’s dairy farm, opposite New Westminster city.”

The newspaper reported them to be “mostly of an inferior character, and consequently no buyer offered.” At a time when only agricultural land held value, the forested district which is now a City Centre could attract not one dollar an acre.

SW Herring picked up a small parcel of land on Lulu Island fronting on the North Arm,  Lot 20, B5N R4W,  27 acres.

The recently completed Trunk Road  proved its worth when the first month of the year 1875 proved once again to be the coldest.   Captain Clark recorded that his friends the Cudlips, settlers at Langley,

“came down from the farm by the new road.  Good sleighing.”

The cold persisted and on their return home the Cudlip’s “crossed the river on the ice.”   The Fraser quickly froze to more than six inches and there was “fine scating” well into the month of February.

Sam Herring took to selling his fish retail in New Westminster, styled “Herring’s Fish and Game Market.”    The store opened in February 1875, in the brick warehouse on Lytton Square, before moving to a permanent home in a new building on Front Street.  He sold fish, game, vegetables and “Fine Block Ice.”

Herring’s parents, John and Mary, were at this time residing in San Francisco, where they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, the invitations printed on gold-embossed cards.

By the mid-seventies, many fine farms had been developed in the Fraser Valley, notably down at Lulu Island and Ladner’s, and upriver at Chilliwack.  Nevertheless,  Herring’s Ranch continued to garner acclaim in the autumn of 1875, carrying off a fifth of all the prizes at the Agricultural Exhibition.  Sam Herring won for, among other items, ducks, cattle cabbage, onions, corn, cucumbers and cooking apples.

In the first week of the new year Herring’s cattle, seized by the Provincial government for arrears of rent, were sold “at Brown’s corrall on the other side of the river, and at Moody’s wharf.”

The Fraser River reached flood stage again in June 1876. At Soda Creek on the upper river the water rose 12 feet in one day. Temperatures in the Canyon reached from 98 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit and in the lower Valley 82F. Residences and farms throughout the Fraser Valley were inundated, leading to some complaints from Herring’s farm.

“Sam Herring says the sturgeon are eating all his cabbage at the other side of the river. He’d like to catch them at it.”

Illustrious visitation brings lustrous invitation

In 1876 the Governor-General paid a famous visit to New Westminster and after meeting dignitaries and engaging in ceremonies, His Excellency’s party headed to the steamer Royal City, when they chanced to  meet up with Sam Herring.

“On our way we got out to look at a great sturgeon hanging in front of a fishmonger’s door, and he invited us to catch salmon by the light of the moon, which invitation we accepted for that night.”

Official ceremonies and meetings continued late into the evening, but late as it was, the Lord and Lady weren’t ready to retire for the night,  slipping away to their meeting with Sam Herring.

“We then prepared to go out fishing, and, conducted by ‘Mr Herring,’ we had settled ourselves comfortably in the boat, when ‘Mrs Herring’ was announced, and we had to make room for her; she proved a most talkative lady, and, in the language of the country, “clouch tum-tum’ was the burden of her song. The ‘beautifulness’ of various fishes and dishes occupied her whole mind, and to the Commodore of one of Her Majesty’s fleets, she enlarged with fervour upon the merits of a particular bit of fat in a particular place in the inside of a particular fish. The Royal City she likened unto the Garden of Eden, only giving the preference to the broils and the stews, the currant wines and the potted salmons of the Westminster Paradise upon earth.
“A boat in advance of us put down the net, and after waiting half an hour, it was drawn up in our presence, and we caught 6 salmon and a sturgeon.”

From garden to factory: trials of the fishing business

In the 1870’s a number of canneries were built on the Lower Fraser River, and Samuel Herring participated in the fishery. In the Guide To British Columbia for 1874 there is a large advertisement for “Herring’s New Salmon Curing and Canning Factory.” The term “curing” suggests this was salted fish, a process that preceded the modern canning method. Herring also ran his “Fish and Game Market” at New Westminster. He offered venison, geese, ducks, snipe, grouse and all kinds of fish and sea-food from sturgeon to oysters and clams.

On July 14, 1877 it was reported that he caught 2100 salmon in 24 hours.

Sam and Hannah’s sons were also involved in the fishery.

“In eleven hours fishing. . .four of Mr Herring’s boats took 1,100 salmon, Master John Herring’s boat accounting for 325 of them.”

Herring employed many native workers, but had some trouble keeping them under contract once the season began in earnest. With a tight labour supply, some would leave at short notice to take work elsewhere. The issue was important enough that Herring took the matter to court, arguing that they must be held to their agreements or else no one could depend on a reliable source of labour. One man was in fact imprisoned for signing on to fish for the season, accepting money, then leaving after just one week. In testimony hearkening back to Herring’s youth, witnesses were called to affirm who said what to whom.   The case was deemed to be an important precedent and involved much legal argument as to whether a fisherman was to be considered a “labourer.”

When left in the lurch, Sam Herring felt his only recourse was to withhold payment, the contracts not having been fulfilled. This resulted in his being summoned in suits brought against him for unpaid wages.

In the August heat, and with the fish running, Herring’s frustration boiled over in court. He interrupted proceedings several times and was ordered from the courtroom. He resisted being escorted out, and Tillman Herring, knowing his father was suffering from ill health, came to his aid, assaulting the officer.

Both Herrings were reprimanded by the presiding magistrate. Sam was fined $20, and Tillman, third-man in, was given a stiffer sentence, serving two weeks in jail for his offence.

Notwithstanding Sam Herring’s difficulties as an employer, he long enjoyed a close relationship with natives who were his neighbours and who for had for many years supplied his shop with his stock in trade: fish, game,  oysters, and wild fruits, which they gathered near and far.

It was a complex supply chain and entailed an intimate knowledge of sources and timing to bring each item to the kitchen tables of New Westminster and Victoria.   Oysters and clams came from Mud Bay and Burrard Inlet; game from the hills above Brownsville and beyond;  wild blackberries, blueberries and cranberries from secret patches on hidden prairies, their locations jealously guarded even from other natives.

Sam Herring, early in business, had tapped into the intricate survival and trading network that had sustained native families for generations.  For his part, he was renowned for prompt and reliable delivery of fresh goods,  which he advertised to every household.

Herring was involved in another minor dispute with fellow pioneer Alex McLean over damage to a fishing net.  Herring abandoned the suit at the courthouse.

The Cannerymen

The fishery expanded in 1877 with the addition of two new canneries. On March 8, 1877, Sam Herring entered into an exclusive agreement with Charles Comstock Lane to supply all the salmon Lane could handle in the coming season.  At the same time, Lane entered into a partnership with James Finlayson, and they operated as “Finlayson & Lane, Fish Curers.”

Opening just down river from Herring’s at Brownsville was the modern and spacious facility of the English & Co Cannery. A description of the cannery appears in the Mainland Guardian of August 11, 1877.

“This fine establishment belongs to our enterprising fellow citizen, E. Brown, Esq. MPP, who, with a large outlay, erected the buildings in question; his public spirit doing much to develop the valuable business which now forms so prominent a feature in this city.”

The cannery industry had transformed the waterfront on the south side of the river. The land hitherto the object of great efforts of clearing and cultivation for the produce of the soil, was being taken over by mammoth buildings, wharfs, and machinery. In equipment alone the investment was huge, with steamboats, sail-boats, nets, and a plant on-site to manufacture the cans, the nets and the packing-cases. The cannery being powered by steam, there were separate engine and charcoal houses. At the height of the salmon run the cannery employed 50 Indians, 250 Chinese and 50 white men. The Indians camped along the river, and the Chinese and whites were put up in boarding houses, not far from the cannery.

“SW Herring puts up 75 barrels of salmon a day . . .
English & Co, at Brown’s Landing, is the largest cannery on the river, and at present about 300 hands are employed by it.
Two small steamers—the Leonora and the Leviathan—are at present employed in collecting the fish from the company’s boats, and bringing them to the cannery.
The average ‘put up’ is some 400 cases or about 20,000 lbs of fish a day.”

The booming fishing business brought scrutiny from the public over concerns for the prudent use of this resource. There were complaints of over-fishing, dumping of offal into the river, and even waste of fish.

AC Anderson, formerly head of the Customs Service for Vancouver Island and Fraser River before New Westminster existed, was now the Inspector of Fisheries for British Columbia. He wrote to Finlayson & Lane over a complaint of dumping fish in the 1877 season, and received the following response:

“the salmon canned in our establishment were furnished to us at two cents per lb., under contract by Mr SW Herring of this place. . .On the 19th of July Mr Herring caught an unusual quantity of fish, a large portion of which he bellied for salting; the backs of which he handed to us for canning. As the weather at this time was very warm, probably about 3,000 backs of salmon spoiled before we were able to put them in cans. Those fish, we believe, Mr Herring threw away . . .To avoid a recurrence of this waste of fish, we requested Mr Herring to withdraw the most of his boats, which he immediately complied with, and thereafter only employed a sufficient number of boats to keep the cannery supplied.”

It was the position of Mr Birrell and all in the canning industry that they “are directly interested in the preservation of these fisheries; for the failure of the salmon to visit this stream would render our property here valueless.”

Finlayson & Lane noted that—

“the advent of Messrs English & Co’s establishment and ourselves, this year, has been of much benefit to the people in this locality, and we are glad to say that our business relations with the good people of this burgh have been of the most cordial and pleasant nature . .”

In response to the concerns expressed by the public, the Inspector and those involved in the fishery, the stakeholders came together in December in New Westminster.

“A meeting took place at the Colonial Hotel on Monday [Dec 17, 1877]  last of all those concerned with the fisheries and canneries on the Fraser . . .The chief subject of discussion was a hatching establishment…”

With Anderson, Inspector of Fisheries, in the Chair, those cannerymen present included:

Samuel Weaver Herring, Marshal Martin English, Henry Holbrook, James Wise,  Alex Ewen and Peter Birrell, acting as Secretary.

English’s proposal for the building of a “breeding establishment” was not forgotten, nor the means to pay for it. His proposal for a license fee of $20 on every fishing boat, and a duty on packed salmon was also accepted by all present. The meeting also agreed to the need for a boat to remove snags from the river, which entangled the drift nets.

All these recommendations would come into effect in the coming years, most notably with the construction of the Dominion Fish Hatchery— a development which tragically cut short the life of the Fishery Commissioner.   Anderson  was out at Pitt Lake in late 1883 searching for a location for a hatchery when his small steamer ran aground in the shallows and he was forced to stay overnight with wet clothing and without blankets or fire.  His health suffered and he died in the spring , never seeing the completion of the hatchery at  Bon Accord in 1884.

A smallpox outbreak struck New Westminster in 1877 and the Herring family took in some children for care, for which they received compensation, but not without litigation over the amount.

Continuing his run in the courts, another suit was brought against Sam Herring in October. Hung Yuen won a judgment in Victoria in payment for vegetables supplied to Herring.

SW Herring was a long time member of the Hyacks, and in 1878 he made an unsuccessful run for the top job in the Fire Department.

Friends in the House

Even when not involved in personal disputes, Sam Herring’s name was never far from controversy. In a raucous sitting of the Legislature on March 1st, 1878, insults and charges of patronage were hurled across the floor by WJ Armstrong, directed primarily at turncoats Ebenezer Brown and Robert Dickinson. He alleged that since switching their support from the Walkem administration to Elliot’s, they had benefited from Government patronage.

“With reference to Mr Dickinson, it was strange too, that immediately he changed his political mind, his brother got an appointment and ‘Father too was provided for.'”

Armstrong also alleged that Dickinson had,

“through a Mr S. Herring, supplied the Government road parties and jail with fresh meat for the past two years.”

This brought a heated rebuttal from the Minister, Mr Fisher, who welcomed the opportunity to deflect attention from the Government members. He regretted

“Mr Armstrong had made a series of cowardly attacks on men who were not present to defend themselves.”

Interjected Mr Armstrong: “Name one who is not present.”

“Mr Samuel Herring, and no matter what his character may be, it is a cowardly thing to attack him behind his back.”

Such a noble defence by the Honourable Mr Fisher  brought “Cheers” from the Government bench.

The name SW Herring does appear sometimes in the public accounts published each year, for trifling amounts such as  “Buggy hire” and “Ferriage.”


The fish canning partnership of Finlayson and Lane lasted only a year, with Finlayson opting out on March 7, 1878.  Comstock then partnered with Jacob Mabee Pike of San Francisco and Uriah Nelson of British Columbia, forming the firm of “Lane, Pike & Nelson.”  “The business of this firm is Canning Salmon on Frazer River, B.C.”

Herring employed the services of the steam propeller boat Georgie for the fishing season,  but Sam Herring was by late 1878 in failing health.  His family rallied.  In March 1879, Mrs Herring opened up the “Palace Restaurant & Oyster Saloon” on Front Street,  New Westminster.  She advertised meals at all hours.   Sam would be in charge of the bar,  dispensing the best wines, liquors, ale,  porter, cider and cigars, “carefully selected and will give general satisfaction.”   It was a return to Hannah’s role as hostess, and Sam as host in his own public house.

Sam’s eldest son Tillman was also making a return to the family business.  At the end of July,  he reopened with his brothers John and Henry the “Original”  fish and game market on Front Street, two doors above Begbie Street. A ferry, the Nellie Taylor, Capt Thomas Penny, advertised regular transport to the canneries and picnic excursions to sites along the river, leaving from “Herring’s Slip,” Front Street.

Across the river, as  a new municipality was being incorporated,  the rough and ready pioneering era came to a sudden closing.

Samuel Weaver Herring died August 22, 1879

Herring’s obituary in the Mainland Guardian noted that he had been in failing health for some time. He was 49 years of age.

“The death of Mr Samuel Herring—On Friday evening last this community lost one of its remarkable men, one who will long be remembered for his eccentricities, if not for the valuable work he has done in building up this city of ours.. .
he leaves a widow, who is generally respected for her industry, and devotion to her four children. . .
With all his peculiarities, he was generous and hospitable, and his wonderful energy and enterprise created for him many admirers, who will sadly miss him.. .
When the news of his death reached the city, all the flags were lowered to half mast. . .”

An account of his funeral noted that it was

“largely attended, nearly all the old residents joining in the procession. Messrs WJ Armstrong, J. Wise, HV Edmonds, E Eickoff, JT Scott and C Lee—all pioneers—were the pall-bearers.”

His longtime neighbour, fellow Mason, and sometime adversary, Ebenezer Brown, arrived back from a trip to England a few days too late to attend the funeral for Sam Herring.

On the death of Samuel, the Palace Restaurant was shuttered up,  the family in mourning.  In October, an advertisement announced that:

“The above establishment is now re-opened under the management of Mrs Herring, who looks for that support which she feels sure her friends will extend to her. She takes charge of the Culinary Department and will be glad to serve meals at all hours. Mr FD McLennan will take charge of the Bar and will dispense the best wines, liquors, ale, porter and cigars to all the friends and supporters of the establishment.”

Mr McLennan did not last long in the Bar, and in June was replaced by Mr Frank Mathews.

The first month of 1880 was chosen for a marriage of the 22 year old daughter of Samuel and Hannah Herring. Miss Annie Mary Herring, born in Crescent City, California in 1857, a toddler at boomtown Whatcom in the heady days of ’58, and resident on the Fraser since 1859, was married at New Westminster to accountant James Gerald Jaques, a native of Quebec, on Jan 12th.  By 1885 they would be living on a large property (lot 13) on Clinton Street (2nd St) and Queens Avenue.  They would remain childless until the adoption of a daughter, Alvie, born July 15, 1887.

Other notable passages in the Herring family that year included the birth, on April 4, of a son to  Tillman R Herring in San Francisco.

In June, Samuel’s other younger brother, Thomas A Herring, born in Pittsburgh, died aged 34 years in Mayfield, California. Thomas had been living many years with his widowed sister Angeline, who had married Albanus Rowley one of the founders of Alviso, CA. Ageing parents John and Mary, in their late 70s, also resided some years in the same household.

In December 1881 a daughter was born to Sam Herring’s youngest brother, Tillman R Herring, in San Francisco.

By this time Tillman W Herring had since closed up the market in New Westminster to return to the river boats.

In May of 1883, James Clark recorded in his diary

“heavy fire across the river above Herring’s.”

It was a phenomenon that would occur with increasing frequency in the next couple of decades,  with increasing settlement and clearing of land,  never failing to prove a cinematic attraction to residents on the hillside in the City.

On June 5th, a day of heavy rain, the citizens of New Westminster were shocked when Ebenezer Brown fell dead at 4 in the afternoon.  Since joining Sam Herring on the south side of the river in 1861, Brown had  taken advantage of the location of his farm to put his stamp on the development of the lower Valley, become wealthy through his business dealings, and as a populist politician and staunch champion of the Mainland, won every election he ever contested, as a city councillor and provincial legislator,  not forgetting his entertaining disputes with Sam Herring and his commanding officer in the Militia.

Brown’s daughter Eugenie and son-in-law JS Knevett would return from England to manage his business affairs.

Of the Herrings,  was the turn of youngest brother Henry Herring to run the old stand on Front Street.  He reopened the store in November 1883 and advertised “fresh and salt water fish, game (including venison), cranberries, vegetables, etc.”  As with his father and brothers, he offered a wide selection of natural products and household delivery.

In December 1883 newspapers in California and BC reported the death of John Herring, of San Francisco aged 79 years, 9 months. A native of Maryland, Sam Herring’s father had come out to California in from Pittsburgh in 1850 and had spent many intervening years in the northwest.

At the time of his passing John Herring was the owner of Lot 2, one of the 45 acre lots of Group 2, located just downriver from Herring’s Point, adjacent to the properties of Ebenezer Brown. (Beneath the present-day Skytrain Bridge.)

In March of 1884 a regular ferry service, the steam paddle-scow K de K, began crossing the river from New Westminster to Brownsville Landing. Prior to this time travellers had to bargain with Indian canoeists, or request ferrying  by such as Sam Herring.

John Herring, the younger, and his brother Henry Herring continued to fish the Fraser, often with spectacular results.  In April, the Colonist reported:

“Mr Herring caught a seal in his net on Monday night which weighed 300 pounds. On the same night a sturgeon was caught which measured 10 feet and weighed 700 pounds.”

Fight for the homestead

In 1885, Samuel Herring’s widow Mrs Hannah Herring applied to the Ministry of the Interior, which held jurisdiction over lands which fell within the Railway Belt, regarding her status and possible ownership of the land on which she had lived for 24 years.

It came down once again to Joseph Trutch, now an agent of the Dominion Government, to report on the case history of the property. He wrote that the lease of 1868 could not be found. However, there was

“an entry in a Record Book of the Lands & Works Department, that a lease of certain lands designated as Lot 1, Group 2, and Sections A and B, New Westminster District, was on the 29th May 1869 granted to Samuel Herring, for a term of 10 years at an annual rental of $150.”

This lease was the one which had been signed by Trutch himself, in an earlier capacity, and which subsequently had been reviewed by a committee of the legislature.

Trutch asserts, but does not offer any proof, that the two parcels A and B

“have been an Indian Reserve since 1858 or 1859 . . . and as such have been claimed and taken over by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and are therefore not included within the Dominion Railway Lands.”

Curiously, Trutch writes:

“The late Saml Herring was probably well aware that this land was an Indian Reservation and that a title thereto could not be obtained, and therefore was content to hold it from time to time under lease.”

There is some irony is Trutch’s promotion of the Reserve. In his first land survey of 1859 he had not even included the presence of Indian houses on his map. In later years he worked to reduce the size of reserves allotted under the authority of Governor Douglas.

Proceedings were taken to eject Mrs Herring from the land in 1886, but they were stayed. The value of the land had increased considerably, as it lay at the northern terminus of the proposed New Westminster Southern Railway, which would run to the border, thence to Fairhaven on Bellingham Bay.

Tillman Willard Herring continued with his brothers in fishing and fish marketing. The Dominion Fisheries return for 1885 records “T Herring & Co” selling 10,000 fresh salmon. He also handled 50,000 pounds of sturgeon. Among fishes in lesser quantities he sold 1,500 pounds of fresh herring.

In the last few days of 1885 came the news from San Francisco of the death of another New Westminster pioneer.

“Died–In San Francisco, Dec 27th, 2am, Mrs Mary Herring, relict of the late John Herring, in her 79th year. A native of Maryland, US.. . “

Mary died two years to the month after her husband John Herring.

John Franklin Herring, the youngest of Sam Herring’s boys, was up the coast at Essington in 1886 and served as a Special Constable with Superintendent HB Roycraft during the Indian protests at Metlakatlah. He would remain there many years, involved in the burgeoning north-coast fishing industry.

Hannah Herring continued the struggle to maintain her tenure on the site of the old Revenue Station. Mr J Jaques of New Westminster, in presenting the case of his mother-in-law to Edgar Dewdney, Minister of the Interior for the Dominion Government, in 1889, remarked on the history of the adjacent Indian reserve.

“The part on the water front of Lot 1 . . . was, I understand laid out by order of Col Moody for a Squamish Indian and he has constantly resided thereon, but no other Indian has used the Reserve.”

Jaques appealed to Dewdney:

“If you could use your way clearly to let Mrs Herring purchase a portion if not all of the land it would secure her a home. She is now well advanced in years, and in very poor circumstances, in fact depending on the products of the place for her daily bread.”

It is evident from correspondence, cited earlier, of Governor Douglas and Colonel Moody, that the lessee of this land should have a right of purchase, should the land no longer be required for a Government Reserve. But the Governor and the first Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, were long gone, and each decade brought new personalities, covering the past as effectively and deceptively as the silting of the Fraser laid down fresh sandbars. The letters, the maps, and the leases appeared to be unknown to later officials. In this respect, the Herrings suffered the same fate as the Indians, with the clearest of instructions covered by layers of re- and misinterpretation.

Tracks, Voyages and Townsites

In the first week of 1890 the Fraser River was covered with ice all the way down to Ladner at its mouth.

“Brownsville people are frozen out of communication with New Westminster.  The old ferry is laid up for a much needed rest.”

The old ferry was the K de K, the steam scow that had been transporting people, horses and wagons, cattle, and other freight across the river between New Westminster and Brownsville Landing since 1884.  The service was barely adequate at the best of times, and during freeze-up could not operate.  There was a swell of support among the citizens of New Westminster and the towns of the lower Fraser, for a more efficient ferry system, or a bridge across the river.  A ferry would be built and go into operation in 1891, but a far greater change was in the offing.

A railway, first promoted by Ebenezer Brown as far back as 1883, but held up by federal government policy favouring the Canadian Pacific Railway,  was finally under construction to connect New Westminster with cities in Washington State.

The line of the road ran from the border at Blaine, through Hall’s Prairie north to Port Kells, and west along the riverbank, terminating opposite New Westminster.

After some initial financing difficulties forced the withdrawal of the developer, American retired Senator Eugene Canfield, a contract for constructing the railway was signed with noted builder Nelson Bennett, of Tacoma and Fairhaven.  Unlike his predecessor, who had more interest in real estate booming than construction, Bennett and his partners declared their interest was “straight railroading.”  They saw the line as part of network connecting the US and Canadian transcontinental roads.  Bennett had close ties with JJ Hill of the Great Northern Railway, and on completion this road would be operated by that company.

With the injection of new capital,  orders were put in for locomotives and steel rails.  At camps along the line upwards of 400 men at a time were employed blazing, clearing, grading, and building bridges and trestles.

Two vessels laden with rails,  the Cordelia and the Astoria, set sail from England, destined for the Fraser River.

The Cordelia left Liverpool the first week of February,  carrying 1500 tons of steel rails with a crew of 14 under Captain Owens. The Astoria left Maryport on the February 24.  She was laden with 2,142 tons of rails with a crew of 25, Captain Hugh Dagwell.

In the last week of March, Nelson Bennett and his partner HY Thompson, visited Brownsville to locate a site for a wharf for the landing of rails, ties, spikes, locomotives and other equipment for the railway.  Declared Thompson:

“We’ll have that Brownsville wharf…constructed immediately.  We have got to get ready to unload those rails upon it.  We can’t tell just where the ships are now, but they might come in any day between now and June 1st, and we want to be ready for them when they do come.  We intend to shove the construction of the road for all it is worth, and we are only waiting for those rails.”

The site selected was at Herring’s Point.  A wharf was constructed, 740 feet long,  and laid over with double thick planks to receive its load of steel.

On April 30th 1890,  a cryptic notice appeared in The Times of London.  In a column devoted to “Latest Shipping Intelligence,” under the heading “Wrecks and Casualties,” appeared the following:

“A report from Lloyd’s agent at Stanley, F.I. dated April 19, telegraphed from Montevideo, states that the Astoria, from Maryport for New Westminster, has put into Stanley, F.I. with decks started, hatches stove in, and loss of stanchions.”

The cargo was found to have remained in place as stowed, but the remainder of the ship required a thorough refit.  She would remain at the Falkland Islands for almost three months.

At Herring’s Point the first of June came and went,  with no sign of the ships bearing rails.

At the completion of the wharf the last week in June, real estate developers  who had invested in land around the terminus of the railway placed large ads in the newspapers, trumpeting the sale of lots in new townsite of “Liverpool”  —“the Fraser River Terminus of the New Westminster Southern Railway.”

All was now ready for the arrival of the rails.  Construction crews continued on with preparing the road.  By the end of June the Blaine Journal could report that

“Last Friday the slashers crossed the Campbell River road on the BC side, which brings them within a mile of Blaine.”

Work progressed at the same pace on the US side towards Fairhaven.

In the last week of July, word reached New Westminster that the Cordelia had entered local waters and was proceeding up the river under tow of the tug Active.  Crowds lined the city wharves waiting to catch a glimpse of the tall ship. She did not pass up to Herring’s Point until 11:30 at night.

The Daily News Advertiser of Vancouver reported her arrival.

“The barque Cordelia, Capt Owens, is lying alongside the Southern Railway wharf, at Liverpool, BC,  the present terminus of the NWS Railway.  The vessel is well loaded down in the water with her 1,500 tons of steel rails.  The Cordelia is an iron-clad barque, of 598 tonnage, with a crew of 14 men—all fine muscular well built tars, and most of them young men.  Capt Owen is a typical British sailor of the first rank.  He reports a rough rounding of the Cape but a good average voyage of 140 days from Liverpool, England, to Liverpool, BC.”

The Cordelia would remain nearly a month while unloading.   Francis Yorke of Moodyville took on the task of unloading the rails upon the wharf.  His work was finished August 8, and after taking on some gravel as ballast, the Cordelia slipped across the river to the Royal City Planing Mills to take on a load of lumber bound for Valparaiso.

The Cordelia remained at the Royal City mills until September 16, when she was pulled downriver by the steamer Active, with a cargo of 500,000 feet of lumber, cut from trees harvested on the vast Mud Bay and Kensington holdings of the RCPM.

As the summer dragged on into autumn, there was still no sign of the Astoria.   The antiquated ferry K de K, continued to chug across the river on her hourly trips, but a new modern ferry was in the works.  The railway locomotives had arrived from Winnipeg.  Engine 199 went down to Fairhaven by the steamer Purdy to start work on that end,  and Engine 202 was put to work over at Liverpool pushing track and supplies along the line.  Towards the end of September, a note appeared in the paper that work on the railway had been suspended pending the arrival of the Astoria.

After undergoing an extensive overhaul lasting almost three months,  the Astoria had sailed from Port Stanley. Rounding the Cape she ran into another fierce storm.  She was reported seen off the coast of Chile looking battered and dismantled.

The rest of her voyage up was without incident until approaching the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca she experienced strong north, northeast gales.  After sighting Cape Flattery she was blown back 30 miles out to sea by a strong southeasterly.  There she signalled the tug Wanderer and was taken under tow to Port Angeles, on the 20th of October.

She was brought up the Fraser under tow of the tug Lorne, Capt Christenson.

Drawing 20 feet of water at half-tide, the Astoria went up past the Sandheads with plenty of room to spare.  This was no insignificant feat,  for the navigation of the Fraser River had often been called into question by rival ports.   The Astoria was heralded as the most important vessel in terms of tonnage and draught yet to go up the river, drawing two feet of water more than any previous vessel.

As she came near New Westminster, the whistle of the Lorne brought excited throngs of people to the waterfront to watch the long-awaited Astoria glide past.  Those who watched from the hill at Albert Crescent took in a fine view of wharf and the new Southern Hotel just completed at Liverpool terminus,  and now open for business, under the management of Mr Burd (“Budd”), a veteran of the Nile Expedition.

Tying up to the wharf at Liverpool completed a trip that had taken, with the stop-over in the Falklands,  at total of 245 days.  The actual time at sea was a moderately fast 135 days.  Coincidentally, a truly fast ship was in New Westminster at the same time.  The Titania, loading lumber, could make the same voyage in 104 days.

At Liverpool the next day,  Captain Hugh Dagwell, who had spent the night in a hotel in the city, took over an armload of mail for his crew, the first they had seen since leaving Port Stanley three months before. Then he sat down to recount the voyage to eager reporters.

By the second week of November the Astoria had disgorged nearly all her cargo, and the entire 740 foot long surface of the wharf at Liverpool was laden with steel rails to a height of four feet.  Stevedore Yorke  had been given 21 days to unload, and this he did with time to spare, including two days loading her up with 200 tons of gravel ballast brought down from Port Kells.

On November 14 the Astoria would leave the vicinity.  Before she left, the new ferry steamer Surrey was launched into the water.

After much debate, the new ferry landing was built downriver from Brownsville,  enticed by rival speculators with an offer of free land, and with it came a flourish of construction of hotels and other service establishments.  The developers called their subdivision  “South Westminster.”

Track laying began again in earnest, and by the end of 1890 the railway line was complete to the border. The first week of the new year railway magnate Nelson Bennett pumped a hand-car 18 miles from Blaine to Liverpool.

The “Little Warbler” and her Vice-Regal Ladyship


It was at the wharf at Liverpool that the most auspicious events of the new year 1891 would transpire.

On February 9, 1891 the American songstress, Emma Juch, and her English Operatic Company gave a “Grand Dedicatory Performance” to open the Vancouver Opera House. She gave two performances the following day, and was scheduled to perform in Fairhaven the next day, skipping the Royal City.  It was a telling reminder of how Vancouver had eclipsed New Westminster as the premier town on the mainland.

The Emma Juch Company was described as:

“The largest and best equipped English opera organization now in existence. . . The numerical strength of the company is one hundred and eighteen, and it carries a grand orchestra. . .it travels with a special train of seven cars, composed of three Pullman sleepers, one hotel car and three of the largest kind of baggage and scenery cars, able to give performances in any large building.”

Ms Juch passed through New Westminster on the 11th of February and her entire entourage—including an owl, in a cage run up on the mast–embarked on the steamer for Liverpool.

Liverpool having pretensions to becoming a city,

“It was suggested . . . that it would be a delicate and appropriate compliment to ask the popular Miss Emma Juch to perform the important ceremony of placing in position the first stone of the foundation of the depot on the block which is set apart for the proposed Liverpool Opera House, but time and the lady’s engagements would not admit of the delay which the ceremony would necessitate.”

A pity. As it was, the company landed at Liverpool with no time to lose on their way to Fairhaven for a performance that evening.

“The Company then boarded the special, which was in waiting at the wharf with locomotive 199, of the Great Northern Railway . . . 3 passenger coaches, a baggage car and 4 goods cabooses . . . The train left Liverpool at 4pm, and the Company, who were expected to play there last night, expected to arrive in time to fulfill their appointment, barring casualties. Outside of official trains this was the first chartered special over the Westminster Southern branch. There was considerable stir at Liverpool on the unusual occasion.”

While it was the “little warbler” who christened the railway with its first paying customers, it fell to the wife of the Lieutenant Governor to give a formal dedication.

Valentines Day was the date chosen for the official opening of the line to Fairhaven.

This time it was the turn of Engine 202 to do the honours. Pulling

“gaily out of Liverpool Station. . .the train slowed down after proceeding a few hundred yards and finally stopped”

alongside a platform near which, hearkening back to the days of the Revenue Station, stood a tall mast,

“from which proudly floated the meteor flag of old England.”

TJ Trapp, a director of the railway company, and a principal in the “Liverpool Land and Improvement Company,” presented Mrs Nelson with a deed to a corner lot in the new city, and she in turn, named it Liverpool.

The train proceeded to the boundary line, where a ceremonial meeting of trains joined the two lines, the Fairhaven Northern and the New Westminster Southern, together. Much banqueting ensued, at Blaine, at Fairhaven, and at New Westminster.

Despite the fanfare, it would be a long time before the railway was put in working order. Work continued on ballasting the track. The Columbian reported:

“There are about 200 men employed on the Southern Railway, and about 70 at Liverpool. They consume about 10 quarters of beef daily.”

The grandiose plans for a new city of Liverpool at Herring’s Point would soon fizzle out.  The railway would first extend its line to the ferry terminus further downriver, and in the coming decade cross over the river by bridge.

Family business

Tillman Herring ran afoul of the law again in 1891.

“T W Herring of Herring’s Point, Liverpool, was charged with storing explosives within the City limits.”

The blasting powder was in a scow which Herring had moored in front of the foundry. His customer, TJ Trapp & Co’s Hardware Store, explained that

“the firm handled large quantities of explosives every day, and they were in the habit each day of giving verbal orders for the quantities required for the next day’s dealing to Mr Herring, who had charge of their magazine at Liverpool.”

Tillman Herring was fined for his trouble, though the reasoning is not clear as to how he, drayman, could otherwise deliver this material to his customer while there remained in force an Act prohibiting carriage and storage of explosives within the City limits.

Tillman’s uncle, William John Herring, attracted attention in the Victoria press in 1891 where he was a well-known character, engaged for some years in hotel jobs, notably as a baggage handler. A report of his divorce was copied from the San Francisco Examiner.

“”I married William J Herring in January 1870,,” said Mrs Mary J Herring to the court, “and got along with him fairly well until six years ago, when he took to drinking rather heavily. His sprees ended by losing his position. One day he said: ‘I’m going to Victoria.’ That’s the last I ever saw of him. He wrote me one letter, and I never heard from since.”
“What drove him to drinking so hard?” asked the court.
“I don’t know,” replied the wife. “William always said that he had so many friends that he couldn’t resist drink.”
Divorce was granted on the ground of desertion.”

Bill Herring and Mary had three children, the best known being Tillman Ringold Herring, who served in the Spanish-American war and became a Fire Commissioner in San Francisco.

With development of railways eating up strips of land, with wharves and docks being erected, townsites planned and hotels built, Hannah Herring remained in possession of the original Surrey homestead,   but its status remained uncertain.

In Feb 1892, 13 years after the death of Sam Herring, the family was still trying to formalize their right to the property where they had resided continually since 1860.

“Judge Bole has made an order declaring Tillman W Herring and Annie Mary Jaques, Sir John Franklin Herring, and Henry Holbrook Herring the only heirs of the late SW Herring, and as such entitled to the issue of a Crown grant in their favor of certain lands opposite New Westminster, Mrs Herring, the widow, having executed a quit claim deed of her interest therein. The land is worth over $100,000.”

The same year CS Wylde, who for a time had charge of the Revenue Service at Langley and was the first lease-holder at the old Revenue Station, died in Victoria at the age of sixty-seven.

In the spring of 1894 the Fraser River reached a record high and flooded out all low-lying areas of the Valley.  Tillman Herring told that

“the water was five feet deep over our farm at Herring’s Point.”

Whatcom redux

Long after the death of Samuel Weaver Herring in 1879, his time in the courts had not come to a close. In 1894, a property he had owned since 1858 at Whatcom, and apparently forgotten by all, became the object of a landmark court case in US municipal law, involving “the assessment and sale of property by a city for a street improvement in the name of SD Henning, instead of SW Herring, who was the true owner.” The case was decided on appeal to the Supreme Court of the State of Washington in 1896.

“This is an action of ejectment prosecuted by GW Felker as administrator of the estate of Samuel W Herring, deceased, against the city of New Whatcom to establish title to and recover possession of lot 5 in block 33 in said city.”

Felker had been appointed to administer the estate of Herring in 1894 and immediately began proceedings to recover the property. The court decided that Herring owned the property in fee simple prior to August 22, 1879. When improvements were advertised to “pile and plank” and to excavate, fill in and level the streets and to make sidewalks, Herring’s property was assessed for the improvements along with others, and when Herring failed to pay, the land was sold at auction in 1884 to Pettibone, who afterwards conveyed the property to the City of New Whatcom.  The Pettibone brothers, related by marriage to  RV Peabody,  had been in Whatcom in 1858 with the Herrings, afterward relocating to Langley and Victoria.

Among the reasons given by Felker to recover the property, was that insufficient notice was given, and that the City record of his name was incorrect. All arguments were rejected by the Court as insufficient and the City kept Herring’s pioneer lot.  Lot 5, Blk 33 was located on 13th Street, which is present-day West Holly Street, between E Street and F Street.

Death of Mrs Herring; fate of the family

Pioneer of California, Washington Territory and British Columbia,  Hannah Herring passed away on April 6, 1895, aged 67. At the time of her death she was living at her daughter Annie Jaques’ residence on 2nd Street, New Westminster. Her pallbearers included Mayor Shiles, JC Armstrong, JA Calbick and some of the last living pioneers of the Lower Mainland: F Eickhoff, James Wise, and Henry Eickoff.

Hannah Herring died intestate and the return of her estate records:

“Sept 30th 1895 – To cash paid collection effects, searching for cows, etc, two men two days…$8.00”

“Aug 2 1895 By cash, sale chickens…$6.50 — Sept 6, proceeds auction…$28.06 — sale calf $25.00 [total] $59.56”

All proceeds went to costs.

Henry Holbrook Herring, New Westminster-born son of Samuel Weaver Herring and Hannah Herring, died soon after his mother, July 3, 1895. He had been a fisherman on the Fraser River, but had suffered ill health for some years.

Annie Mary, widowed since the passing her husband JG Jaques in 1893, remarried in 1895 at the age of 37 to widower James Anderson of New Westminster. A native of Glasgow Scotland, Anderson had come out to British Columbia in 1887 on the first CPR train to Port Moody. He went into business in New Westminster and started the St Mungo Cannery, at the site where the Alex Fraser Bridge now reaches the south bank of the Fraser River.

Annie Mary would give birth to a son, Robert Henry Anderson, in August 1896. The Andersons, including Annie’s step-daughter, Alvie Jaques, lived on a large city property at the corner of 2nd St and Queens Avenue.

Tillman Willard Herring managed to retain possession of a portion of the land held by his father and mother. When the approach to the bridge of the Canadian Northern Railway was constructed, access to Herring’s land was cut off. To accommodate him, the road known as Musqueam Drive was extended from the planked Bridge Road.

Tillman  chose the year of the opening of the Westminster Bridge, 1904, to surrender his bachelorhood, at the age of 46. His bride was widow Mary Caroline Ling Herrling. A daughter of a Cowichan Indian she had first married at age 16 to Charles Herrling a 49 year old Hungarian who settled near Hope, BC at ‘Herrlingville.’ He had passed away at the age of 76 in 1901. Tillman’s marriage would not be a lasting union.

In 1907, Tillman Herring appeared before the fisheries commission, arguing for increased conservation measures to protect the salmon run. Herring was described as “a fisherman living above New Westminster Bridge.” He stated that he had been fishing on the Fraser since 1874. He advocated a 48-hour closure, to ensure an escapement of fish upstream, as that was the time, he observed, that the fish needed to get above Mt Lehman.

In 1910 Tillman was reported in the newspaper as being in possession of an early map of Queenborough, which he inherited from his father SW Herring.

In the 1911 Census Tillman Willard Herring, aged 55, and his uncle Tillman R Herring, 63, are recorded living in the same household with Tillman W Herring’s new wife Mary, nee Herrling and her son, and a nephew, Edward Stoves.

Tillman R Herring, brother of Samuel W Herring, passed away in New Westminster in 1913 at the age of 65 and was buried in the Masonic Cemetery. He had lost contact with his family in California.

James Anderson, husband of Annie Mary passed away in 1923. He was survived by his wife, by his son Robert, and his married step-daughter Alvie Wooster.

Annie Mary died in 1929 at the age of 71. Born in Crescent City, CA, she had come up with her parents in the first years of New Westminster and had since lived 44 years on her property on Queens Avenue. Son Robert Anderson, unmarried, lived in the family home. Her daughter Alvie Wooster lived around the corner on the divided family property on 2nd Street.

Tillman Willard Herring lived until 1937, the last link to the property of the old Queenborough Revenue Station at what became known as Herring’s Point. His obituary in the British Columbian—“Pioneer River Skipper Dead“—described him as “one of the first residents of New Westminster,” and a member of the Hyacks since 1872. He had become a river boat Captain, a pilot and fisherman and fish vendor. In his latter years, at least until 1935, he was a newspaper vendor on Columbia Street in New Westminster, where he would regale customers with stories of pioneer days on the Fraser River.

Alvie Wooster, the adopted daughter of Annie Mary, died in 1954 at the age of 67 in White Rock. She was survived by her husband Captain WS Wooster, three daughters,  and her step-brother, Robert H Anderson. Captain William S Wooster would live until the age of 94, passing away in 1970.

Robert Henry Anderson, son of Annie Mary, died in 1980, aged 84. He was the only known direct descendant of Samuel Weaver Herring and Hannah Herring, and he was unmarried.

(An account of Sir John Franklin Herring and his family, if any,  has so far not come to light.)

The historic site—what remains

Herring’s Point in the first decade of the 21st century offers little hint of its past. The Indians have long gone, taking with them their graves.  There are no meadows of wandering cows, no gardens, and no sign of the richness of the soil. The canneries no longer hang over the river filled with steam and charcoal fumes.  No longer do thousands of celebrating Indians camp here at festival time, canoes pulled up on the beach. There are no gangs of navvies to build the iron road and camps redolent of Chinese cooking.  No stragglers make their way down along the Telegraph trail from Langley and none need to chance dangerous crossings on the ice filled river. There are no shooting matches with soldiers from the Island. Nor do cannon balls whiz overhead from war ships taking target practice at the Brownsville butts. The railway tracks laid down 1890 are still there and the railway bridge built in 1902, but the large “Liverpool” wharf has long since rotted away. The site of the old Revenue Station is now covered by a scrap metal salvage yard.

Yet going through the underpass of the railway bridge approach, from 112th Avenue, you view the Ritchie Bros auction house on the riverbank, reminiscent of the house built for Captain James Kirk at the Revenue Station,   and you can wind along Musqueam Drive skirting the edge of the old (reduced)  Indian Reserves to the place where Sam Herring’s cows once wandered (all too) freely.

If you don’t mind risking a warning of trespass from the Harbours Board, you can find your way beyond the scrap heaps to a small beach and a slough with a fine view of the river and on the other side, the hillside where the Engineers encamped.  You can appreciate the strategic value of the Point at the river bend.

It is hard to imagine the bounty of prize-winning vegetables and fruit that once grew here, but to the south, near 128th St,  you can still find vestiges of the bog that separated the Revenue Station from the uplands.  There is an accessible public wharf at the foot of 130th St with a fine view of the river and the mountains and a sense of the rise and fall of the river.

The foot of 126A St, where the city has a pumping station, is the site of the old Liverpool Railway Station, where once alighted Emma Juch in all her finery.  Here branched the siding to the wharf where the bark Astoria landed rails  in 1891 after an epic journey of 10 months.  Now you can cross the tracks to a small rough beachfront at the side of a slough.

To the west, on the old property of Ebenezer Brown, first cleared by John Robson,  the access is easier. Old Yale road is still a little crooked, home-made by Brown on this section leading to the site of the old wharf that was the terminus of the Trunk roads and a landing for the ferry K de K.  Approaching the campground on the left stood Punch’s Brownsville Hotel. The park at Brownsville Bar offers good views and good fishing.  “Brown’s ditch,” remnant of a slough which once drained this low land, can still be seen marking the boundary between John Herring’s Lot 2 and Ebenezer Brown’s Lot 3.